Cases of COVID-19 are surging throughout the Westside, county and Santa Monica city leaders said Monday while they described the pandemic as one of the worst disasters Los Angeles County has experienced in decades.

“We’re beginning to see the surge that we expected from the holiday season materialize,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said at the beginning of a briefing Monday. “The situation is more dire than ever before… Dying from COVID in the hospital means dying alone. Visitors are not allowed into hospitals for their own safety. Families are sharing their final goodbyes on tablets and mobile phones. One of the more heartbreaking conversations that our healthcare workers share is about these last words, when children apologize to their parents and grandparents for bringing COVID into their homes and for getting them sick; and these apologies are just some of the last words that loved ones will ever hear as they die alone.”

Solis begged residents to heed her words and prevent their families from suffering a terrible fate before Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported 137 additional people died Monday, which brings the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in L.A. County to 12,387.

In the last seven days, more than 1,500 families in the county have lost a loved one and with 12,617 new cases reported to start the week.

“We’re quickly increasing our pace to reach the grim milestone of 1 million cases,” Ferrer added, stating there are 7,910 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 22 percent of those patients are hospitalized are in the Intensive Care Unit.

The daily reported number of deaths was over 200 on multiple days last week and the seven-day average of daily deaths has increased 1,125 percent since Nov 1, 2020, according to Ferrer.

She said that since at least 10 to 12 percent of the people who are infected with the virus end up hospitalized at some point and more than one percent of people who are diagnosed as positive with COVID-19 end up dying, COVID-19 will continue wreaking havoc on the county.

“This is the time to be extremely cautious and very careful. We cannot lighten up our efforts yet; not now and not for the next several weeks,” because every minute ten people in L.A. County, on average, are testing positive for COVID-19, Ferrer said Monday. “And these 15,000 or so individuals who are testing positive each day were capable of infecting others two days before they had any symptoms or even knew that they were positive.”

“The damaging impact to families and our local hospitals from this surge is the worst disaster our county has experienced for decades. And, as with other terrifying situations, the end of this surge only happens when more people and more businesses take control and do the right thing; And we all do know what we need to do,” Ferrer said. “We’ve had the tools, the warnings, and the restrictions in place for weeks but it has been insufficient because the biggest single factor in all of this comes down to individuals taking appropriate action (and) taking personal steps.”

As the county approaches the one year anniversary of the first-known positive case, there is hope for a brighter future.

“However, we need to make sure that everyone survives to benefit from the vaccine, so now is not the time to meet up with friends at your home to watch the game. It’s not the time to go for a walk without your face covering,” Ferrer said. “The most important way to stop (the virus) in its tracks is to avoid interactions with others and protect ourselves at all times.”

Brennon@smdp.com