CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Health experts are saying that COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are on the rise throughout Central Illinois this holiday season, leading to changes in mask recommendations for Champaign County.

The CDC and IDPH listed 74 of Illinois’ 102 counties as having an elevated level of COVID-19 as of Thursday, 29 of which are listed as having a high level; this number is up from 12 a week ago. The IDPH said there are 21,400 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID in the state since Dec. 2, with 56 new deaths attributed to the disease.

The IDPH said the surge correlates with the Thanksgiving holiday and that it was anticipated.

“Illinois is experiencing a significant rise in communities at elevated risk levels for COVID-19, including 29 counties at a high risk,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “These elevated COVID-19 community levels, along with rising flu levels, are leading to a surge of respiratory infections and increased hospitalizations. I recommend all Illinoisians – and especially those most vulnerable including young children and individuals over 65 – take all preventative steps to protect themselves, their families and friends.”

Vohra said those steps include testing, especially if visiting someone at risk for severe illness, good hand hygiene, staying home and seeking treatment if sick and getting up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations.

“A high-quality mask or respirator is also recommended and will protect you from COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory viruses,” Vohra added. “Our hope is for Illinoisians across our state to have a happy and healthy holiday season.”

Champaign County is among the counties listed as having a high community level and a high level of transmission. CUPHD officials repeated several of Vohra’s suggestions on Facebook, recommending that masks be worn in public indoors (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings) regardless of vaccination status. Vermilion, Edgar, Christian, Logan and Sangamon Counties are also listed as having a high level.

Coles, DeWitt, Douglas, Ford, Iroquois, Macon, McLean, Piatt and Shelby counties are listed as having a medium level of COVID while Livingston, Moultrie and Effingham County are still listed as having a low level of COVID.