A dozen people died in Santa Monica last week as a result of COVID-19 and local leaders are calling on the public to take every precaution possible as the County nears 900,000 cases.

Ten months passed before L.A. County hit 400,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 30, 2020, but the caseload has since doubled in a little more than a month, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, who was one of the many voices expressing a need to avoid leaving home as much as possible in the coming weeks.

“Right now, the infection level in Santa Monica is out of control and our hospitals are overwhelmed. If you want to live to see the end of this — and it will end — you simply have to stay home now,” councilmember Kevin McKeown said on social media this week with a serious tone, which took a few viewers off-guard.

“Apparently, my vehemence caught people by surprise, and I’m glad,” McKeown added Thursday. “We need to wake up to the deadly seriousness of the current phase of this pandemic. We can’t further shut down our society — at least not without further legal authority from the Governor or the County Health Department — and we may never be able to get COVID-deniers to wear masks as common sense mandates. What we can each do is take personal responsibility for our actions, limit our contact with others, and, above all, don’t share air.”

Mayor Sue Himmelrich added in a video on Youtube that it’s very important for Santa Monicans to follow the new quarantine orders.

“This is certainly not the way I had envisioned welcoming the New Year with COVID-19 continuing to infect my friends, my neighbors and anyone who crosses the virus’ path,” Himmelrich said as she asked all who traveled outside of Los Angeles County or participated in large gatherings to quarantine for 10 days from their return.

Ferrer discussed why it’s so important for residents to adhere to the quarantine guidelines earlier this week when she met with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to discuss the progress on vaccines and the region’s overloaded health care system.

Patients who are hospitalized spend an average of six to seven days, and when you have thousands and thousands of people entering the hospital each day — it’s easy to understand the dangers of increased case counts, Ferrer said, noting this week’s lower case counts result from a holiday weekend when most testing sites were closed but the county typically averages somewhere around 15,000 cases a day when all sites are up.

“Anywhere between 10 and 12 percent of people who test positive have ended up in our hospitals requiring hospitalization and hospital care,” Ferrer added, so she and others at the county’s public health department are worried cases will increase similarly to what was witnessed two to three weeks out from the Thanksgiving holiday.

“This is not a time for complacency,” Santa Monica’s Chief Resilience Officer and Emergency Operations Director Lindsay Call added Thursday. “This is a time for action, and the action we need is for everyone to stay home and limit all trips out of the home. Our hospitals are in crisis and we have yet to see the full impact of holiday gatherings. Please, stay home and do not invite or attend gatherings with others, even family. Please, always wear a mask when around others, even outdoors.”

Ferrer said the only way to reduce case numbers significantly is to stop community transmission as much as possible. “The good news in front of us right now is we do have the tools. And we’ve always had the tools for the last many months that actually prevent a lot of the transmission of the virus. But everyone would have to be using them and using them all of the time.”

brennon@smdp.com