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Large Protests Could Bring A Second Wave Of COVID-19 Without Proper Mitigation

Dr. Gregg Stoner, chief medical officer of Heartland Health Services.
Dr. Gregg Stoner, chief medical officer of Heartland Health Services.

Hundreds of people clustered closely together for peaceful protests or violent outbreaks alike are a concern for public health departments still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Gregg Stoner is chief medical officer of Heartland Health Services.

"We expect that we'll see a second wave from that, if a lot of people are meeting in public and not maintaining social distancing and not wearing face masks. We expect that the rate will go up," Stoner said.

The state recently entered phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan, which allowed restaurants, bars, and retail establishments to reopen in some capacity after two months.

But unrest over the death of George Floyd, a black man, after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, has led to massive peaceful protests across the country, including Peoria. Unrelated rioting and looting spurred by roving crowds have also cropped up in the River City in recent days.

Stoner said the good news is that Peoria has seen relatively low positivity rates and has ample hospital capacity if need be.

"There's still capacity to handle quite a few patients if there is indeed a second wave," Stoner said, noting only three COVID-19 patients are currently in the ICU in the Peoria area.

He said it will take about two weeks to see a potential spike based on the virus' incubation period. Stoner recommended anyone attending a large gathering wear a face mask, but said the virus is prevalent enough in the community to not require a self-quarantine.

There are 362 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths in the Tri-County region of Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford. Two new deaths occured in the last 24 hours in Peoria - both in long-term care facilities.

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