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Peoria Officials Tout Coronavirus 211 Service, Look To Expedite Testing

Central Illinois residents in need of resources amid the coronavirus pandemic can use the Heart of Illinois United Way's information and referral service.

President Jennifer Zammuto said the 211 call center has been in operation for seven years, but could be more helpful than ever during these uncertain times -- especially for mothers, families and the elderly.

"For any kind of non-medical emergency, you can call 211 and get connected to resources in your community --Cancellations, food needs, shelter needs," Zammuto said.

The service, ran in partnership with Advanced Medical Transport, is designed to help residents throughout the United Way's five-county region, which includes Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford.

Domini Ardis, 211 coordinator, said operators are ready to answer general coronavirus, questions provide recommendations to those with symptoms, and connect people with mental health services to manage stress around the outbreak.

"If a person is in need of specialized services such as food delivery or child care due to school closings, they can call 211 to find organizations that are helping with those resources," Ardis said. "In addition, we're also going to be working to compile a list of any person that wants to volunteer or donate items to those in need."

Ardis said the 211 shortcut might not work for all callers. In that case, residents can call (309)-999-4029.

Coronavirus testing

The United Way was joined in a press conference by Peoria area lawmakers who say they're trying to secure enough COVID-19 testing kits for the region.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth said she's talking to the governor's office daily, but there's still no clear answer from public health officials on when more testing supply will become available.

"When this started out, all of the testing clusters were in the northern part of the state," Gordon-Booth said. "That clearly is not the case anymore. And so we're waiting on directives from [the Department of Public Health] when downstate is going to have access to more testing."

Both Gordon-Booth and state Rep. Ryan Spain said allocating additional government dollars won't help if there are not enough testing kits to purchase.

Spain said state and federal governments have already set aside huge amounts of money to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House announced an $850 billion phase 3 stimulus plan.

Spain said throwing more dollars at the problem won't help.

"It's about capacity, both in supplies and then laboratory capacity," he said. "We know that we're seeing expansion of private lab testing and working with private labs to scale up."

Spain said the three state labs currently processing COVID-19 tests are already working around the clock.

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State Rep. Ryan Spain
Dana Vollmer / Peoria Public Radio
Peoria Public Radio
State Rep. Ryan Spain

Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.