Photo by Kit Karzen.

Governor Gavin Newsom and local health officials gathered Wednesday afternoon to discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on California and Los Angeles County.

Shortly after Newsom spoke about the economic toll the pandemic has had on entrepreneurs and the need to protect essential workers, L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Pro Tem Hilda Solis reminded the public, in a separate briefing, that officials also continue to see the impact of the virus on children.

In the Central Valley of California, a teenager tragically died of COVID-19 and at a summer camp in Georgia, hundreds of children came down with COVID-19, Solis said. “And here in LA County, we continue to see cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome among children,” which is a condition related to COVID-19 where body parts can become inflamed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children are at risk of developing severe symptoms that can require admission to an intensive care unit, and this is especially true for Brown and Black children who are more likely to require hospitalization of COVID-19, according to Solis, who added Wednesday: “Tragically, Latino children are eight times as likely as White children to be hospitalized and Black children are five times as likely. An analysis of over 500 children hospitalized for COVID in 14 states found that one out of three was admitted to the ICU. This is a similar rate for adults.”

In short, Solis said in conclusion, “children are not immune to COVID-19 or its symptoms,” so please continue to take this seriously.

Per usual, Barbara Ferrer, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, took the podium to speak on the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths the county has seen. But she first took some time Tuesday to provide an update on the county’s approach to reopening universities, and the recent decision to keep colleges closed for now.

“Colleges and universities are an important driver of innovation, cultural vibrancy and economic activity in the county. At the same time, the very nature of the way that colleges and universities operate creates a significant risk of outbreaks of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff. And these risks, extend beyond the campus into our broader community,” Ferrer said. “For this reason, we have decided… to limit the reopening of colleges and universities until we’re able to slow the spread of the infection at a higher rate here in the county. This means that colleges and universities may continue their essential operations, but that most academic instruction will continue to be done via distance learning.”

Institutions may continue to offer some limited in-person training and instruction, but that’s only for students who are or will become part of the essential workforce — and it’s only for required activities that cannot be accomplished through virtual learning. Student residency should only be provided to students who have no alternative housing options, according to Ferrer.

“I know that this is disheartening news for so many of the students who are looking forward to life on campus, but this postponement does mean that we’ll continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the county and get to the point where we can return to campus when our rates of community transmission are significantly lower,” Ferrer said, before detailing 58 deaths happened in the last 24 hours and officials also reported 2,428 new cases, which includes close to 700 cases that are now being counted from the recent backlog of tests results.

This means the county has experienced a total of 5,109 deaths from COVID-19 since the outbreak, “and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has suffered such a significant loss of a person that they loved,” Ferrer added as she moved to provide context to the recent data trends.

“Young adults aged 18- to 29-years old have the highest case rate among all age groups in LA County,” and they, along with people aged 30 to 49, are the main groups responsible for the explosive growth in cases that are being seen across the region, according to Ferrer. “If you look at all of our cases between the ages of zero and 50, they’re making up closer to 70% of all of the cases out here in LA County, new cases here in LA County.”

Statistics like these are partly why Newsom said worker protections like sick leave are needed for those who may not be able to afford the financial consequences of having to quarantine. The governor also called out the need to social distance because it’s been proven to be effective.

“If you want to continue to see those numbers go in the right direction, continue to physical distance. If you want to see those numbers continue to go down as the temperatures go up, try to avoid mixing,” Newsom said, which is something the public isn’t necessarily doing too well right now.

“I saw the American River the other day and it might as well have been Spring Break… It kind of raises those shivers in my spine,” Newsom said. “Here we are making all this progress, and it can be done away.”