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Health reminder: Don’t forget masks, social distancing through holiday weekend

By Staff | Sep 4, 2020

As Southwest Florida prepares to celebrate Labor Day weekend, local health officials remind residents to continue to social distance in large groups and wear face coverings. The last large outbreak of COVID-19 in the county came after the last holiday, July 4, according to Lee Health officials.

“As we head into the Labor Day weekend, I am asking each and every member of our community to take personal responsibility to slow the spread of this virus,” said President and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci on Friday. “We must not let up. Wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands. These simple actions can literally make the difference between life or death.”

Antonucci said he does not want to see what the area experienced a few months ago to disrupt the improvement the community has made in the spead of the virus.

“To date, the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in our region immediately followed the Fourth of July holiday. Lee Health was treating over 300 patients in our hospitals, and we experienced volumes that would be typical for seasonal months, not the summer. It was a grim situation that challenged our community’s resources and resilience,” Antonucci said. “As you make your plans for the weekend, I want you to remember we are still battling a global pandemic, and the coronavirus is still active in Southwest Florida. It was a community-wide embrace of safety precautions that reversed the dangerous trends we saw in July and got us back on track in August.”

New patients coming into Lee Health facilities have steadily declined over the last month, often discharging more patients than they admit each day.

Antonucci asked the community to be vigilant not just for their own benefit, but for others.

“There is no debate. It is proven that wearing a mask and physical distancing reduces the spread of the coronavirus. We have seen it play out in our own backyard,” Antonucci said. “When Southwest Florida wears masks and keeps a safe distance from others we see a drop in cases and a drop in hospitalizations. Fewer people witness their loved ones suffer from COVID-19 and fewer people die. When we stop doing these important safety practices, the opposite happens. More people suffer and more people die. The temporary inconvenience of wearing a mask saves lives and will help us return to normal as soon as possible.

“Every person in our community has the ability to proactively protect their friends, family and neighbors from this deadly virus. The compassion of our community is directly responsible for the current positive trends, and we need you to keep up the great work.”

As of Friday afternoon, Lee Health had 88 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 10 new admissions and 13 discharges from Thursday.

A total of 2,540 patients who had tested positive have been discharged since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Lee Health had a 10.9% 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.

Census as of Friday afternoon was at 85 (-1)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 7.3 (-.5)% 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 Friday, 71 (+0)% of ventilators and 22 (+1)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Friday, there were 11 (+0) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 29 (-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