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Lee Health announces vaccination efforts; state sees highest single-day case increase since pandemic began

By CJ HADDAD - | Jan 6, 2021

Lee Health has begun immunizing health care workers and patients in its skilled nursing facilities. LEE HEALTH

Local Health officials on Wednesday announced new programs to help vaccinate at-risk members of the community.

President and CEO of Lee Health Dr. Larry Antonucci outlined steps the county’s leading healthcare provider is taking to vaccinate residents outside of the single location arranged for those 65 years of age and older and frontline healthcare workers at the RSW site in Fort Myers.

“While the county and health department focus on the general public, Lee Health will be taking care of special populations such as healthcare workers, our volunteers and patients who qualify for the vaccine under the Governor’s Executive Order,” Antonucci said. “We have also been working with CVS to vaccinate patients and employees at our skilled nursing facilities.”

Lee Health on Tuesday launched a vaccination site exclusively for healt care workers who are not employed by Lee Health. 

“This site is for employees of independent medical offices, dentists and their staffs and home health agency employees,” for example, so they too can get their frontline healthcare workers vaccinated,” Antonucci said. 

This site is not for the general public, but healthcare workers only, he stressed. 

On Wednesday, Lee Health announced it has a limited supply of vaccines available for patients at 18 Lee Physician Group Primary Care Offices for qualifying LPG patients over the age of 65 or who have significant co-morbid medical conditions. Vaccines are by appointment only. Lee Health is contacting patients who qualify to be vaccinated to schedule appointments.

Lee Health has also opened up its vaccination clinics at hospitals for Auxiliary Volunteers who fall within the criteria of the Governor’s Executive Order.

“Unfortunately, we shut down our volunteer program early on in the pandemic to protect the health of our volunteers, as most of them are above the age of 65 and we wanted to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Antonucci said. “These volunteers are critical to providing a welcoming and healing environment for our patients. We miss them greatly and getting them vaccinated is the first step to welcoming them back into our facilities.”

Antonucci also discussed the outlook for vaccine supply and what the public can expect going forward.

“We anticipate exhausting the initial supply by early next week,” he said. “Admittedly, that is a little slower than we would have liked, but we had two major holidays to deal with and we are ramping up to our goal of providing up to 1,000 vaccinations a day. As stewards of this community resource, we are also sharing the vaccine with other large medical practices so they can vaccinate their own staff. Last week we provided 400 doses to a regional medical practice for their providers.

“We have made great progress over the past two weeks. We have a robust plan in place to deliver the vaccine, and we have hired about two dozen additional nurses and customer service reps to help with vaccination sites. Demand for the vaccine is higher than our supply, and while we have been assured that more doses are coming, we ask for the community’s patience as we roll out new access points across our region.”

Officials said they hope to vaccinate as many residents as possible, but that the process could take some time and asked the public to be patient. 

“The goal of rapidly getting the vaccine to as many people as possible brings with it complex supply chain issues, but it is important for you to understand we have a dedicated group of leaders who are working together to get the vaccine out to our community,” Antonucci said. “We all have the same goals of protecting people and creating herd immunity as quickly as possible.”


By the Numbers

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 1,409,906 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 17,783 since FDOH’s last update Tuesday, the largest single-day increase of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. 

Test results reported to the Department of Health on Tuesday, Jan. 5, resulted in a 12.59% positivity rate among 158,325 tests.

The state saw its highest daily percentage of positive patients on Dec. 29 when 22.75% percent of tests reported were positive among 62,303 tests.

Positivity rates in new cases have topped 10% in nine of the last 10 days. Percent positivity rates in new cases have been over 5% since Oct. 29. 

Of those testing positive, 64,321 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state.

The death toll increased by 132 from Tuesday’s report, bringing the total number of deaths, both resident and non-resident, to 22,647.

According to the state, hospitalizations in Lee County, and statewide in Florida, make up 5 percent of all positive cases. Deaths statewide and in Lee County stand at 2% of positive cases.

On Dec. 27, 974 people were given the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine throughout the state, according to FDOH. The total number vaccinated as of Wednesday throughout Florida was 329,060 with 11,765 being in Lee County. According to the state, 5,197 individuals have received both their first and second doses, two of those being in Lee County. 

In Lee County, 43,327 individuals (+482) have tested positive as of Wednesday’s update. 

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 691 deaths in Lee County, an increase of nine from Tuesday’s report.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Lee Health had 193 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 25 new admissions and 29 discharges since Tuesday. 

A total of 4,191 patients who had tested positive have been discharged since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Lee Health had a 27.5% 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 Wednesday afternoon was at 95% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 13.9% 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 Wednesday, 75% of ventilators and 12% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Wednesday, there were 12 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 27 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