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Top Regional News: 3 COVID-19 deaths reported in Peoria area

News Desk

The following stories are among today’s top news of central Illinois. 

3 COVID-19 deaths reported in Peoria area

PEORIA — Three people have died within the past 24 hours in the Peoria area due to COVID-19, health officials said.

The victims were a Peoria County woman in her 40s who had underlying health issues that officials believe could have contributed to her death. She did not live at a long-term care facility.

The other two deaths were Tazewell County residents. Neither man lived at a long-term care facility, and they were in their 90s and 60s. There was no information about underlying health issues.

Wednesday's data brings the Tri-County Area death toll to 294 since the pandemic began back in March.

The area reported 289 new cases, among the lowest numbers for all three counties in the past few days. That translates to an additional 125 cases in Peoria County, which brings its pandemic total to 10,603. Woodford County reported 31 new cases, making its new total 2,146. Tazewell County now has 8,105 cases, up 133 within the past 24 hours.

Check pjstar.com for more on this story.

Pritzker calls for national testing expansion as Illinois reports 179 more COVID-19 deaths

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday called for President-elect Joe Biden to spearhead a national COVID-19 testing expansion strategy because the governor said Illinoisans can’t depend on vaccines alone to reduce transmission of the potentially deadly virus.

Officials on Wednesday reported an additional 179 deaths from COVID-19 and 8,256 new confirmed and probable cases in Illinois. A total of 13,666 people in Illinois have died from COVID-19.

Pritzker, a Democrat, has been critical of Republican President Donald Trump’s lack of a federally coordinated testing strategy across all 50 states. Biden, a Democrat, has said he will champion more of a federal role to get the pandemic, which has killed 286,000 Americans.

Pritzker said Illinois is “the best testing state between the coasts” and will be willing to share with the future Biden administration “what works and what doesn’t” after Biden becomes president in January.

The governor said at a news conference that excitement is building as the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine — 109,000 doses — are expected to arrive in Illinois next week and be distributed first to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents. Other groups at high risk of COVID-19-related medical complications will follow.

But Pritzker said it will be “months before vaccines will be available to the general public, so it’s incredibly important that we do everything in our power to temper the spread of this virus in the coming weeks and months. We all want as many people alive and healthy as possible when we get there.”

Check pjstar.com for more on this story.

Madigan floats Illinois income tax hike as $3.9 billion deficit looms

SPRINGFIELD — As the state government attempts to close a multi-billion-dollar budget hole, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has said he is prepared to vote for an increase to the state’s flat income tax rate should the governor request it — a proposal met with pushback from his Republican counterpart, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.

The $3.9 billion budget shortfall, projected by the state budget office, that lawmakers will confront this spring has gained an increasing sense of urgency with the defeat of the graduated income tax constitutional amendment at the ballot on Nov. 3.

Voters rejected the initiative that would have replaced the state’s flat income tax with a graduated income tax, which was projected to raise revenues by more than $3 billion annually.

The state’s flat income tax rate is currently 4.95%. The rate had been 3.75% from 2015 to 2017, and it was 5% from 2011 to 2014.

The state budget office has projected budget deficits ranging from $4.8 billion in 2022 and $4.2 billion by fiscal year 2026, according to a report last month from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

That report attributed the sizable budget deficit largely to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic that has forced many businesses to shut down and led to skyrocketing levels of unemployment.

Madigan’s comments, reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, came during a speaker candidate forum of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus on Saturday.

Madigan, 78, has served as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives every year since 1983, with the exception of 1995 to 1997, making his tenure the longest of any state House speaker in U.S. history.

Check pekintimes.com for more on this story.

Knox County woman dies of COVID

GALESBURG — A woman in her 80s has died of COVID-19 in Knox County, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

This news brings the countywide COVID-19 death toll to 71. At least 53 county deaths have been in long-term care facilities.

As of Tuesday, 3,416 people have contracted COVID-19 in Knox county.

While COVID-19 infection rates continued to decrease Wednesday, the number of people hospitalized for the disease increased to its highest mark since last Friday.

Gov. JB Pritzker noted the importance of testing in suppressing virus positivity rates and targeting actions for mitigating spread. He was joined by Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which is coordinating a national COVID-19 testing action plan.

Pritzker said the foundation has been “an important convener of public health officials and elected leaders to exchange best practices for protecting the health of their communities.”

Check galesburg.com for more on this story.