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State closes its COVID-19 testing sites as Tropical Storm Isaias approaches

By CJ HADDAD - | Jul 30, 2020

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has announced that all state-supported drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing sites are temporarily closed in anticipation of impacts from what is now Tropical Storm Isaias. This order impacts the drive-thru testing site at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers.

Testing was suspended beginning 5 p.m. Thursday “out of an abundance of caution to keep individuals operating and attending the sites safe.”

“All sites have free standing structures including tents and other equipment, which cannot withstand tropical storm force winds, and could cause damage to people and property if not secured,” stated FDEM’s release.

FDEM stated the sites would remain closed until they are safe to reopen, with all sites anticipated to be functional at 8 a.m. on Aug. 5 at the latest.

Sites in Lee County run by Lee Health are still operational as of press time.

A list of all state-supported testing sites can be found at www.floridadisaster.org/covid19/testing-sites/.

Lee Health

For Lee County’s primary heath care provider, COVID-19 admissions continue to drop this week.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci on Wednesday shared encouraging news when it comes to the number of new patients the system is admitting on a daily basis. Antonucci also announced staffing for an additional 62 beds to the Lee Health system.

While local numbers continue to not increase dramatically (Lee County reported 260 new cases Thursday, the most since July 23), the state has reported new record-high death tolls in three straight daily updates. There were seven new deaths in Lee County included in Thursday’s report.

Antonucci believes the community is doing what is needed to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Southwest Florida has embraced wearing a mask and social distancing, and these safety measures are working,” Antonucci said. “Today (Wednesday), we have over 80 fewer COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than we did a week ago. The positivity rate on tests processed through Lee Health labs is down nearly 10 percent from a week ago. I can’t stress enough that our community’s commitment to masking, social distancing and hand washing is working, and we can’t let up.”

He said now is not the time to become complacent and relaxed with behavior in public.

“As a community, we must continue doing what we are doing,” Antonucci said. “While the current trends are positive, we have been here before. We have seen what happens if we become complacent, and it is very likely that we see another spike in COVID-19 cases if we let our guard down.”

As for the new beds, Antonucci said that, “Coupled with the declining COVID-19 cases we are currently seeing; this puts Lee Health in great position to continue to meet all of the health care needs of our community.”

“Together, We Can”

Antonucci on Wednesday also announced of the new “Together, We Can” campaign, a joint effort between Lee Health and Lee County “to empower our community to keep up the great work.”

“The coronavirus is going to be with us for the foreseeable future, but together we can limit its spread and save lives,” Antonucci said. “We are excited to join with our colleagues at the county to continue this education campaign, which we hope will get our community back to normal as quickly as possible. As a further reminder, flu season is right around the corner. Staying vigilant on these measures will not only slow the spread of COVID, but also perhaps dampen the effects of the flu. This is particularly important as we plan for the start of the school year and the influx of seasonal residents.”

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 461,379 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 9,956 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning.

More than 95,000 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, July 29. Of those reported tests, 12 percent tested positive. Over the last two weeks, the average positivity rate has been 12.17.

The state saw its highly daily percentage of positive patients July 8, when 18.50 percent of tests reported were positive among 51,686 tests.

The death toll increased by a record 253 deaths (253 Florida resident, 0 non-Florida resident) from yesterday’s update, reported among Lee, Bay, Brevard, Broward, Citrus, Collier, Dade, Duval, Escambia, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Holmes, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia counties.

This new record for deaths reported by the state follows Wednesday’s death toll of 217 and Tuesday’s death toll of 191. This does not mean all of the deaths occurred or were reported by local health care facilities on that day but that they were released in the state report that day after reports were processed.

A total of 3,584,193 individuals have been tested: 3,117,738 have tested negative, 5,076 tests were inconclusive and 3,304 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 26,017 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state. There have been 6,709 deaths.

The age groups of Florida residents that have yielded the most positive test results are 25-34 years old (20%), followed by 35-44 (16%), 45-54 (16%) and 15-24 (15%).

The highest hospitalization rate is found in patients 65-74 (19%), 75-84 (18%) and 55-64 (18%) years old.

In Lee County, 15,137 (+260) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday; 6,174 in Fort Myers (+82), 3,408 in Cape Coral (+71), 3,005 in Lehigh Acres (+62), 992 in Bonita Springs (+15), 526 in North Fort Myers (+11), 327 in Estero (+10), 90 in Alva (+3), 60 on Fort Myers Beach (+0), 35 in Sanibel (+1), 26 in Bokeelia (+0), 20 in Saint James City (+2), 12 in Tice (+0), nine on Matlacha (+1), three on Captiva (+0), three in Buckingham (+0); three in Boca Grande (+0), three in Miromar Lakes (+0), two in San Carlos Park (+0), one in South Fort Myers(+0) and one in Immokalee(+0);157 cases were not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 101-year-old. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 286 (+7) deaths in Lee County; 164 (+3) deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday, Lee Health had 216 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 23 new admissions Wednesday.

A total of 1,932 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including 27 on Wednesday.

The system has submitted a total of 43,682 specimens for testing with 749 results pending.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 21.4% positivity rate on COVID-19 tests processed through Lee Health Labs. This represents Lee Health results only, not Lee County as a whole. Hospital positivity rates tend to be higher as the tests are performed on patients seeking treatment for a health issue, not the general public that includes asymptomatic individuals.

Lee Health’s mobile collection sites on Wednesday collected 149 specimens.

Current Census is at 83 (-3)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 19.1 (+.1)% of those being COVID-19 patients. Staffed operational capacity reflects the number of beds for which the hospital has adequate staffing, not the total number of beds within Lee Health hospitals. Overall bed capacity fluctuates hour to hour as the system discharges patients throughout the day who are ready to go home.

As of Thursday, 62 (+1)% of ventilators and 24 (+8)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

There are currently 30 (-0) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 38 (-1) in the intensive care unit.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home so as to limit exposure. All others are urged to observe social distancing and to wear a mask for all public interactions.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

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