ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force, Dr. Alex Garza, is reiterating that peak numbers of COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis area is still 2-3 weeks away - and only the people of our community can impact how successful we are at leveling-out the curve.

Garza shared that message at a news conference on Monday and then again during a one-on-one interview with News 4. 

Garza said the the number of people being hospitalized in the St. Louis area for COVID-19 continues to rise with 545 patients being admitted to task force hospitals with COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19. 224 of those patients are in the ICU and 172 are on ventilators.

"We are on the steep part of the curve right now," Garza said, preparing St. Louisan's for the next two or three weeks of increased numbers. "The next few weeks are going to be extremely difficult for the St. Louis region," Garza said.

He expects 80,000 people to have COVID-19 by the end of April, an alarming number, but he added many of those cases will be people who are asymptomatic and other who will not require hospital stays. He said somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of those with the disease do not exhibit symptoms.

Garza added the curve can be successfully flattened if people abide by social distancing and take the other precautions including washing hands thoroughly.

As for the medical professionals on the front-lines, Garza said they're doing okay, but share similar anxiety that some in the public have. "They're doing okay. I would say they aren't without some level of stress... these are folks who are literally exposing themselves - they worry about their family, they worry about their personal exposure. By in large they're doing well, but there is a lot of stress out there."

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