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Lee sees ‘slow rise’ in COVID cases

By CJ HADDAD - | Oct 22, 2020

Local health officials on Thursday addressed the growing number of COVID-19 patients being treated in the community.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said the county’s leading healthcare system over the last few weeks has seen “a slow rise in both our positivity rate and the number of patients we are treating for COVID-19 in our hospitals.”

Two weeks ago Lee Health was caring for 47 admitted coronavirus patients and on Thursday that number was 78. In daily reports provided by Lee Health, the number of COVID-19 patients admitted in recent weeks has often been larger than those discharged — a reversal in trend.

“We have been battling this virus in Southwest Florida for eight months, and our community is understandably anxious. People want to know when this will end and when we can return to our normal lives. We have to be patient and we have to be strong,” Antonucci said. “The coronavirus is still in our backyard and will be for the foreseeable future, but we can take actions now to help prevent it from spreading at the rate it did during the summer months.”

Officials said they expected “some level” of increased spread as snowbirds make their way to Southwest Florida.

“The more people we have in our community the more cases we expect to see,” Antonucci said. “Seasonal residents tend to be older and more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and it is imperative to continue to practice the same safety precautions that have become second nature to help keep them safe. The fact remains that the safest way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe when out in public is to wear a mask, regularly wash your hands and keep a safe physical distance from others.”

Residents were once again urged to get their flu shot.

“In addition to these safety precautions, one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and our community is to get your annual flu shot,” Antonucci said. “Many symptoms of the flu and coronavirus overlap with each other, and there will be undoubtedly be questions about whether someone has the flu or COVID-19 when they show signs of respiratory illness. While it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, getting your flu shot greatly reduces your chances of illness from the influenza virus, and a mild flu season means we have more resources and testing capability to fight the coronavirus.

“We don’t know how much longer this pandemic will last, and I am asking our community to please do your part in protecting your friends, family and neighbors. Continue to wear your mask and practice physical distancing, and please get your flu shot. Scientists and researchers are getting closer to a vaccine, but until that time we must do everything in our power to keep each other safe and limit the toll the coronavirus takes on our community.”

COVID By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 768,091 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 5,558 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning; the highest new-case daily total since Aug. 15.

More than 106,000 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, Oct. 22; the highest number of tests processed in the last 10 days. Of those reported tests, 5.62 percent tested positive. This is the third highest daily percent positivity reported by the state in two weeks and follows Wednesday’s 6.73 percent positivity that was the highest since Sept. 2. Percent positivity rates in new cases have been over 5% six out of the last nine days and under 10% over the last 70 days.

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 57 (two occurring Wednesday) from the last update, including one in Lee, bringing the county’s total to 500.

According to FDOH’s Tuesday 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 5,829,220 individuals have been tested: 5,053,848 have tested negative and 7,281 tests were inconclusive. Of those testing positive, 47,765 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state. There have been 16,470 deaths.

According to the Agency for Health Care AdAccording to the Agency for Health Care Administration, at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, there were 2,071 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, 22,341 (+139) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday, the second highest daily increase in 14 days, including; 9,039 in Fort Myers, 5,071 in Cape Coral, 4,212 in Lehigh Acres, 1,369 in Bonita Springs, 807 in North Fort Myers, 560 in Estero, 127 in Alva, 95 on Fort Myers Beach, 60 in Sanibel, 60 on Matlacha (+3), 60 in Bokeelia, 56 in South Fort Myers, 35 at Florida Gulf Coast University, 32 in Saint James City, 32 in Bonita Beach, 18 in Tice, 12 in Boca Grande, eight at Babcock Ranch, six in Miromar Lakes, four in Buckingham, three on Captiva, three in San Carlos Park and one in Immokalee; 328 cases were not identified by community.

There have been 500 deaths in Lee County; 257 of those deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 78 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 15 new admissions and 14 discharges since Wednesday.

A total of 2,877 patients who had tested positive have been discharged since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 9.5% positivity rate on COVID-19 tests processed through Lee Health Labs. This represents Lee Health results only, not Lee County as a whole.

Census as of Thursday afternoon was at 88 (+1)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 6.3 (+0)% 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, there were six (+1) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 13 (+3) in the intensive care unit.

As of Thursday, 76 (+0)% of ventilators and 27 (-2)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

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 continue to urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home as much as possible 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