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Lee sees ‘slow rise’ COVID cases

By CJ HADDAD - | Nov 5, 2020

Local health officials on Wednesday detailed a rise in new cases of COVID-19 in the community over the last few weeks and spoke of new challenges with winter months on the horizon.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said while Southwest Florida is not seeing the high volume of cases in the summer months, cases are once again starting to trend towards more admissions than discharges.

“We have been observing a troubling trend over the last several weeks. The number of patients in our hospitals with COVID-19 is on the rise. While we have not matched the peak we experienced in July, when our hospitals were nearly overrun with cases of COVID-19, now is the time to recommit ourselves to take the steps we know reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.

With the population growth the area experiences from snowbirds, officials are keeping a close eye on transmission possibilities. Health officials said staying vigilant in preventative practices needs to stay at the forefront of the public’s mind.

“The fall and winter months present us with new challenges in keeping the spread of this virus under control,” Antonucci said. “Our population grows dramatically this time of year — we are already seeing longer lines at the grocery store and more cars on the road — and the holiday season brings family and friends together in celebration. While we all look forward to the winter season, we need to be aware of how it provides a more favorable environment for the spread of infectious disease. As we gather together during the holiday season, and residents return to their winter homes, we must remain observant of the actions we can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“I am calling on our community to act now. While we have seen a growth in cases, it has so far been a slow growth. Researchers are getting closer to a vaccine, but until then we have to take our safety into our own hands. Wear your masks, physically distance as much as possible when in public or at holiday gatherings and wash your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water anytime you come in contact with high touch surfaces. We are counting on our entire community to proactively protect themselves and their neighbors this holiday season.”

By the Numbers

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 827,380 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 6,257 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday afternoon; the highest daily increase in new cases since Aug. 15.

More than 108,800 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Of those reported tests, 6.20 percent tested positive. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the state reported positivity percentages of 7.55 and 7.73 respectively, the two highest daily percent positivity reported by the state since Aug. 17 when 7.91 percent of new cases tested positive. Percent positivity rates in new cases have been over 5% 10 out of the last 11 days and under 10% over the last 84 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 39 (two occurring Wednesday) from the last update, including six 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.”

Of those testing positive, 50,077 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state. There have been 17,170 deaths.

According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, at 1:45 p.m. Thursday, there were 2,527 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, 24,328 (+173) individuals have tested positive as Thursday’s report, including; 9,723 in Fort Myers (+55), 5,502 in Cape Coral (+47), 4,420 in Lehigh Acres (+58), 1,528 in Bonita Springs (+10), 886 in North Fort Myers (+4), 691 in Estero (+12), 136 in Alva (+0), 104 on Fort Myers Beach (+2), 97 on Matlacha (+4), 95 in South Fort Myers (+0), 65 in Sanibel (+2), 60 in Bokeelia (+0), 57 in Bonita Beach (+4), 38 at Florida Gulf Coast University (+0), 32 in Saint James City (+0), 18 in Tice (+0), 14 at Babcock Ranch (+0), 13 in Boca Grande (+0), five in Miromar Lakes (+0), four in Buckingham (+0), three on Captiva (+0), three in San Carlos Park (+0) and one in Immokalee (+0); 410 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 529 (+6) deaths in Lee County; 260 (+1) of those deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 86 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 13 new admissions and 14 discharges since Wednesday.

A total of 3,026 patients who had tested positive have been discharged since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 17.4% 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.

Census as of Thursday afternoon was at 88 (-1)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 6.9 (+.2)% 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, 76 (+3)% of ventilators and 18 (+6)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Thursday, there were seven (-1) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 16 (-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