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Peoria area's COVID-19 situation remains dire as omicron surge drives record hospitalizations, case counts

Monica speaks
Tim Shelley
/
WCBU
Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson speaks at a COVID-19 media briefing on Jan. 13, 2022.

The current COVID-19 surge is showing few signs of abating, as the Tri-County region sees hospitals remain maxed out on capacity and daily case counts skyrocketing to new highs.

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the omicron variant is driving a new surge like never before, with Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties currently reporting an average 844 new cases per day.

"Since March 16, 2020, this is the highest daily increases that we are seeing in the Tri-County," said Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson, noting all three counties report positivity rates above 20 percent — with Peoria County reporting a rate of 27.3%.

She said the proliferation of at-home testing is skewing case counts.

"Those tests do not get captured in the numbers," Hendrickson said. "So the number you are seeing is by default, right now, an underestimate of the amount of virus that we have."

As a result, Hendrickson said hospitalizations, workforce shortages, and deaths are better measures of the pandemic's current severity.

"Really, the end at the light of the tunnel is when we can get cases to a point where we start to see hospitalizations come down," she said.

And with Tri-County hospitals currently reporting 35 ICU beds and 200 non-ICU beds currently in use by COVID-19 patients, and nine additional deaths in the last 24 hours, that point hasn't come yet.

Hendrickson also is reminding people that most contact tracing will now be helmed by an Illinois Department of Public Health hub. The IDPH surge center can be reached at 1-312-777-1999. Local health departments will focus efforts on congregate care, like long-term care facilities and prisons.

Hendrickson said the health department currently does not have the capacity to issue return-to-work letters for employees recovered from COVID-19. She said employers should follow CDC and IDPH guidance on returning to work.

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