COVID-19 cases rising in the Latino population and in long term care facilities

Leslie Renken

PEORIA - The daily COVID-19 press briefings at the Peoria City/County Health Department may be ending, but it’s not because COVID-19 has gone away.

“Let me make it clear: COVID is still within our community, and we are still very much actively responding to it,” said Monica Hendrickson, administrator for the Peoria City/County Health Department during Thursday’s briefing. “Moving forward will still continue to provide updates via our social media platforms as well as doing weekly Facebook posts. But moving forward we will be moving to an as-needed basis for our briefings.”

The daily press briefings, which were reduced to two this week, began March 12, just two days before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in a Woodford County resident.

In the last 24 hours 14 more cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the Tri-County area, for a total of 389 cases, 288 in Peoria County, 79 cases in Tazewell County, and 22 cases in Woodford County, said Hendrickson.

“In this past week, specifically, Peoria County has seen a significant number of confirmed cases, much of it related to the proactive testing being done by our long term care facilities. Of the 97 active cases within Peoria County… more than half are attributed to long term care facilities,” said Hendrickson.

The Illinois Department of Public Health delivered about 2,000 COVID-19 test kits to the Tri-County area last week specifically for use in long term care facilities, said Hendrickson, and many facilities have begun testing residents.

“There is an emergency rule change around long term care facilities,” said Hendrickson about new guidelines imposed by IDPH. “Based on (the facility’s) status in the last 28 days, they will be priortizing their testing on that. So if they actively have a case or outbreak, they need to be testing all of their staff, and all of their residents. If they have not had a case at all, they might be doing what we call sentinel or surveillance testing, so not everyone at once, but recognizing they just need to be on top of that. There’s also a middle ground as well. Right now testing is really focused on skilled nursing facilities. There’s other guidance for other types of long term care facilities as well.”

Recent testing data has revealed another vulnerable population in the Tri-County area.

“Another trend that we’ve seen recently are increased cases for those individuals who identify as Hispanic or Latino,” said Hendrickson. “In the last three days we’ve seen 17 new cases, accounting to close to 20 percent of our daily case count since June 1. What makes this even more important is recognizing that in Peoria County, approximately five percent of our population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, while our to-date count for Peoria is close to 19 percent (Latino). The need to focus on high risk populations, especially various minority groups, is key in decreasing the transmission of the virus, and testing is very much imperative.”

Hendrickson said there are multiple reasons why the Latino population is vulnerable, ranging from multi-general living arrangements to the fact that many work in essential services. Some of the newly diagnosed cases are connected to a family living situation, and in the

Tazewell County cases are part of an employer-based outbreak. Hendrickson declined to name the employer.

Between Heartland Health Services’ three area testing sites and the state-run testing site at the Peoria Civic Center, central Illinois residents can get tested seven days a week. Today the state-run site announced that they are no longer prerequisites for testing - anyone can get tested for any reason.

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or Follow her on, and subscribe to her on