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Lee Health urges continued vigilance

By CJ HADDAD - | Mar 18, 2021

Local health officials on Wednesday said while COVID-19 vaccine availability for all who wish to receive it is on the horizon, residents must continue to be vigilant when it comes to spreading the virus to protect the most vulnerable population.

In a media call, Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci detailed the slight increase of cases locally and asked Southwest Floridians to be patient.

In February, Lee Health had 115 COVID-19 patients in its care and, at one point last week, that number was down to 64. On Thursday, the number of patients in their care stood at 88.

“This serves as a stark reminder that, despite the progress we are making toward defeating the coronavirus, we are still very much in the thick of the pandemic,” Antonucci said. “As our numbers creep up, it is important to continue to wear your mask, wash your hands and practice physical distancing when you leave the house. If you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, or you’re visiting our region for Spring Break, I again ask you to please do so safely.”

Antonucci praised the Lee County Department of Health and local retailers such as Publix, CVS and Walgreens which have provided their locations for vaccine administration. He also is encouraged by the amount of Lee County residents who want to be inoculated.

“Our community is understandably anxious, and I am glad the demand for the vaccine is overwhelming. We would not be able to safely reach herd immunity without widespread adoption, and it is encouraging that the vast majority of our community wishes to be vaccinated,” he said. “If you have any reservations about getting vaccinated, I assure you the science has proven these vaccines are safe and effective, and I encourage you to receive one as soon as you are able. With that said, I am also appreciative of the patience of our community as doses of the vaccine remain in limited supply. We are receiving weekly shipments of vaccine, and we are doing everything we can to get Southwest Florida vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

Antonucci stated he has a “renewed hope” that the federal government will have enough vaccine available for the entire United States by May.

“There are currently three vaccines that have emergency use authorization from the FDA. I am hopeful that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the summer, but for today we must continue to follow the State of Florida’s guidelines and make sure we get the most vulnerable citizens vaccinated with our current limited supply,” he said.

“The faster we reach widespread vaccination, the faster we can reach herd immunity, which will enable us to go back to a more traditional way of life. Please, in the meantime, remain vigilant and continue to follow CDC best practices.”

By the Numbers

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 1,994,117 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 5,093 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday.

Test results reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, March 17, resulted in a 5.56% positivity rate among 129,019 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.

The average positivity rate in new cases over the last week is 5.55%.

Of those testing positive, 82,997 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state.

The death toll increased by 99 from Wednesday’s report, bringing the total number of deaths, both resident and non-resident, to 33,219.

According to the state, hospitalizations in Lee County, and statewide in Florida, make up 4% 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 of persons vaccinated as of Thursday throughout Florida was 4,570,538 with 170,599 being in Lee County. According to the state, 2,553,865 individuals have had their vaccine series completed, 97,873 of those being in Lee County.

In Lee County, 60,451 individuals (+173) have tested positive as of Thursday’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 905 deaths in Lee County — no increase from Wednesday’s report.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 88 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 15 new admissions and 14 discharges since Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 10.6% 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.

A total of 5,313 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from Lee Health facilities since the beginning of the pandemic.

Census as of Thursday afternoon was at 95% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 6.3% 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, 67% of ventilators and 10% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Thursday, there were eight COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 11 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