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Tri-County sees a surge in deaths linked to COVID-19

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Joe Deacon
/
WCBU

As winter approaches, deaths and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 are on the rise again in the Tri-County area.

Figures updated Wednesday on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website show Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties with 20 deaths credited to the pandemic since Oct. 13. By comparison, the three counties totaled 23 fatalities from COVID-19 in the preceding three-month period.

Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson said the surge correlates with the typical spike in respiratory illnesses this time of year.

“We are entering our highest respiratory season,” said Hendrickson. “People are moving indoors, (and) individuals that might not have received the booster, or the variant booster for that matter either, are getting infected more. So we naturally have seen the progression in the past three years for both number of cases, as well as deaths starting to creep up as we enter into the winter.”

People with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and other breathing issues are particularly susceptible to a coronavirus infection, she said.

“COVID-19 tends to hit our highest risk (population), but to compound that are individuals that are unvaccinated or not up to date in the vaccines,” said Hendrickson. “They may have gotten the initial rounds in 2021, but haven't received any of the boosters subsequently. So based on age, prior health conditions, and vaccination status, those tend to be that groups that we see continuously take on the highest burden of this virus.”

According to the IDPH figures, only 63% of Tri-County residents are fully vaccinated, and 123,393 booster doses have been administered in the region. The Tri-County’s death toll from the pandemic is up to 1,171, with the total number of reported illnesses just under 321,000.

While the recent rise in COVID-19 deaths is noteworthy, it’s still down significantly from the past two years. There were 40 pandemic fatalities between mid-October and Thanksgiving last year, and 103 over that timeframe in 2020.

Hendrickson said people aren't wearing masks or working from home as much as they were a year ago, and that's also contributing to a rising number of infections.

“So, now we're seeing COVID-19 plus other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and RSV start coming forward,” she said. “We do have fantastic treatment courses; we have a vaccine that works and a booster that's available, and so we're able to handle COVID-19 differently than we did, say, in 2020.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.