File Photo. Kit Karzen

The number of hospitalizations due to COVID decreased this week, which local health officials said is promising, but County leaders still emphasized a need to stay home and avoid large gatherings for as long as the pandemic lasts.

There were 68 additional deaths Wednesday, which brings the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 to 4,825 across Los Angeles County. There is also now a total of 197,912 total cases of COVID, according to health department officials.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the crisis has brought a harsh toll on everybody but efforts to flatten the curve are paying off.

“We must continue on this trajectory, continue to stay at home, continue to avoid gatherings and continue to wear a mask and physical distance,” Solis said.

“On Monday I told you I was cautiously optimistic,” and while that remains true today, Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “I continue to focus on the word cautious when I speak of the hope I have for where things could be headed.”

As residents look to the future, “and we continue to plan our recovery, we must learn from our recent past and we have to continue our vigilance in the face of this still new and dangerous virus,” Ferrer said. “You’ll recall that just a few months ago, we were in a much better place than we are now. And, unfortunately, many of us thought that meant we could return to life as it was before COVID-19. And we, as a community, returned to a place where COVID-19 was spreading at even higher rates than it had been in the early days of the pandemic. The main difference this time was that the people driving the infection rate were younger than they had initially been.”

These are people between the ages of 18 and 49, Ferrer added. “And while this may seem like a huge and disparate swath of the population, they’re actually very similar in terms of some of their behaviors. These are folks who are out in the workforce and, in many cases, they may be shopping at retail stores, enjoying the recreational venues that are open and socializing with people outside of their households. This is also the age group that’s most likely to be attending the large parties that we keep seeing on our screen,” which are such a bad idea at this time.

Gatherings are simply not allowed at this point because they create a lot of risk for transmission, “and these gatherings hurt all of us as we try to reduce our case rates, so we can get our children back to school and get adults back to their jobs,” Ferrer said, urging the public to make good decisions.

“I do get a lot of questions about enforcement… (but) I do think an equally important question to ask is why so many people are willing to put our entire community at risk during this unprecedented pandemic,” Ferrer said. “One thing for certain is that we will not be able to arrest our way out of the pandemic. We’re only going to get through this with everybody doing their part.”