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Health officials continue to urge flu shots

By CJ HADDAD - | Oct 15, 2020

Local health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated for the flu while COVID-19 continues to be present in the community.

Millions of Americans contract the flu each year with hundreds of thousands hospitalized and tens of thousands dying from flu-related causes.

Lee Health officials called this year’s flu season a “perfect storm” as coronavirus lingers and want to remind the public to receive the vaccine before flu viruses begin to spread throughout Southwest Florida.

“Due to the coronavirus, this flu season will be unlike any other that we have experienced in the past,” said Alex Daneshmand, D.O., MBA, FAAP, Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer at Lee Health. “Although we have been trending downward with COVID-19 cases, we don’t know what is going to happen as we move into fall and winter. Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever as we want to take every precaution to protect ourselves and our community.”

According to Lee Health, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death while also saving valuable health care resources for COVID-19 patient care.

“Studies have shown that many at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19, including pregnant women, people with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart and lung disease, and those 65 years and older,” a Lee Health release states. “The flu is spread by air-borne respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine. Last season, the CDC estimates that fewer than half of Americans got a flu vaccine and at least 410,000 people were hospitalized from flu.”

COVID By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 744,988 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 3,330 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning; the second highest new-case daily total in the last 14 days.

More than 69,900 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Of those reported tests, 5.20 percent tested positive. Tuesday and Wednesday saw the highest percent positivity rates in the state since the beginning of the month. Percent positivity rates in new cases have been under 10% over the last 63 days and 5% or less 11 of the last 14.

The state saw its highest 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 144 (2 occurring Wednesday) from the last update, including four in Lee.

According to FDOH’s Thursday report, “Today, data reported to the Agency for Health Care Administration shows that the number of COVID-19 positive patients that are currently hospitalized is down more than 70 percent since July.”

A total of 5,650,724 individuals have been tested: 4,898,533 have tested negative and 7,203 tests were inconclusive. Of those testing positive, 46,693 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state. There have been 15,932 deaths.

According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, at 11 a.m. Thursday, there were 2,122 (-28) hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.

The age groups of Florida residents that have yielded the most positive test results are 25-34 years old (18%), followed by 35-44 (16%), 45-54 (16%) and 15-24 (16%).

The highest hospitalization rate is found in patients 65-74 (20%), 75-84 (19%) and 55-64 (18%) years old.

In Lee County, 21,613 (+120) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday, the second highest daily increase in two weeks, including; 8,774 in Fort Myers (+37), 4,937 in Cape Coral (+23), 4,124 in Lehigh Acres (+19), 1,321 in Bonita Springs (+4), 777 in North Fort Myers (+4), 535 in Estero (+5), 123 in Alva (+1), 94 on Fort Myers Beach (+1), 59 in Sanibel (+2), 54 in Bokeelia (+0), 46 on Matlacha (+0), 46 in South Fort Myers (+0), 32 in Saint James City (+0), 27 in Bonita Beach (+0), 27 at Florida Gulf Coast University (+3), 18 in Tice (+0), six in Boca Grande (+0), five in Miromar Lakes (+0), five at Babcock Ranch (+0), four in Buckingham (+0), three on Captiva (+0), three in San Carlos Park (+0) and one in Immokalee (+0); 252 cases were not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 103-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 489 (+4) deaths in Lee County; 251 (+1) of those deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 53 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including four new admissions and six discharges since Monday.

A total of 2,827 patients who had tested positive have been discharged since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 10.8% 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 Thursday afternoon was at 88 (-1)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 4.3 (+.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, 79 (+2)% of ventilators and 24 (+1)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Thursday, there were six (-1) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and nine (-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