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'The next couple weeks are going to be extremely difficult' | St. Louis healthcare leaders say COVID-19 peak is yet to come

Based on models the hospitals are observing, the area will go through its COVID-19 peak in the next two to three weeks, Dr. Garza said

ST. LOUIS — Hospitalizations and ICU patients are on the rise in the St. Louis area — and a surge in COVID-19 cases is coming — so doctors stressed it is important for everyone in the area to do their part to flatten the curve.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force gave an update Monday afternoon. The task force was formed over the weekend. It’s made up of representatives from our region’s biggest healthcare providers.

RELATED: Area's largest healthcare providers announce creation of task force to combat COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Alex Garza said from Sunday to Monday, hospitalizations of people who have the coronavirus or are suspected of having it went up from 468 people to 545 in the St. Louis area. The number of people in the ICU increased from 164 patients to 224 over the 24-hour period.

Dr. Garza explained that the St. Louis area is in the steep part of the curve right now. Based on models the hospitals are observing, the area will go through its COVID-19 peak in the next two to three weeks, he said.

“What we know for sure though is based on our modeling and best predictions is that the next couple weeks are going to be extremely difficult for the St. Louis region,” Dr. Garza said.

Credit: St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force

He stressed that decreasing the stress on our local hospitals starts with every member of the community coming together to help decrease the spread. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Keep surfaces clean. And the newest recommendation from the CDC: cover your face when you go out in public.

“We will save lives if we all do our part,” he said.

RELATED: St. Louis County surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 cases as Missouri numbers increase

Dr. Garza further stressed the need to help flatten the curve by saying just how many people could become infected with the coronavirus.

“Our current modeling shows, and I said this over the weekend, we will most likely have around 80,000 people infected by the coronavirus at the end of April,” he said during the Monday afternoon briefing.

The 80,000 number is what the models say is the potential number for all cases in the St. Louis region, including people who aren't showing symptoms, those who are hospitalized and people who have symptoms but are in self-quarantine.

RELATED: Here's when COVID-19 could peak in Missouri and Illinois

The models predict there could be anywhere from about 1,300 up to 3,000 people in the hospital because of the coronavirus. Dr. Garza said if the St. Louis area gets into that higher end of the prediction it would put, “an extreme amount of pressure on the healthcare system.”

Dr. Garza said the concern at that point would be overwhelming ICU capacities and ventilators that are available.

On Monday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Missouri rose to 2,722. There are at least 48 deaths across the state.

You can see a county-by-county breakdown of coronavirus cases in Missouri on 5 On Your Side's interactive map below.