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COVID ‘crisis’: Lee Health sees record number of hospitalized cases

Lee Health urges vaccination

By CJ - | Aug 9, 2021

Lee Health set a record for the highest number of COVID-19 patients in system care over the weekend.

As of Monday morning, Lee Health officials reported 419 individuals across their hospitals are being treated for the virus, outpacing the 327-mark set last July – a 12% uptick.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci addressed what he called a “crisis” Monday morning during a media call.

“The crisis Southwest Florida is facing from the spread of the coronavirus continues to become bleaker by the day,” he said.

According to Antonucci, 40% of the 914 patients in their care Sunday had COVID-19 symptoms. That includes 16 children at Golisano Children’s Hospital, two of whom are in intensive care. He said Lee Health’s models predict these conditions to continue “for the next several weeks.”

“Before the current outbreak in our community, we were averaging no more than one to two kids with COVID in the hospital per day,” Antonnucci said. “With schools starting tomorrow, we expect this number will continue to grow. I applaud the Lee County School District for requiring masks for all students, and I ask parents to please wait to opt out of this requirement. Please let the surge subside before putting children at further risk. Wearing a mask at school will help keep kids out of the hospital.”

On Friday, Florida reported the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began with 23,903.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services inpatient bed dashboard, there are 13,977 inpatient beds in use for COVID-19 across the state (257 hospitals reporting), accounting for 24.74% of inpatient bed use (8.93% nationally).

“I am making a personal plea to everyone in Southwest Florida, please do your part in helping fight this pandemic,” Antonucci said. “Find a place to get vaccinated today. The vaccine is in plentiful supply and available on almost every corner – at Publix, Walgreens, CVS and other retailers.”

County statistics show 47% of Lee County residents are unvaccinated, and, according to Lee Health, 16% of their currently admitted patients are fully vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated today could be the difference between this surge lasting only weeks instead of months,” Antonucci continued. “I want to thank the influx of people who were vaccinated last week and who have scheduled to get vaccinated this week. It is not too late to help!

“While the vaccine is the most powerful tool we have in this battle, there are other things you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, even if you are vaccinated. I support the CDC’s recommendations of wearing a mask when in indoor public places. Please continue to social distance, and wash your hands frequently.”

Individuals looking to become vaccinated can visit www.LeeHealth.org or call 239-343-0999 to schedule an appointment. The free vaccination clinic at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers (13681 Doctors Way) is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A parent or guardian must accompany a minor.

“We all must remember that these numbers we report out are people; they are our friends, families and neighbors,” Antonucci said. “Their lives are in danger; they are ill; sick enough to require care in the hospital or in the ICU. Sadly, some of them will not make it home again. We all can make individual decisions that will save lives.”

By the numbers

As of Monday morning, Lee Health had 419 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals. Over the weekend, Lee Health saw 177 new COVID-19 admissions and 113 discharges.

According to Lee Health officials, 16% of their admitted COVID-19 patients as of Monday morning were fully vaccinated according to their medical charts.

Census as of Thursday morning was at 91% of staffed operational bed capacity. 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 Monday, 66% of ventilators and 9% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities ICU capacity has remained steady between 89-91% dating back to July 23.

As of Monday, there were 36 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 70 in intensive care.

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.

With the number of COVID- 19 cases again climbing due, in part, to the latest mutation of the virus, the CDC is recommending that even vaccinated individuals “maximize protection from the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others” by wearing a mask indoors in public in areas “of substantial or high transmission.”

The CDC also recommends masks for those at high risk of serious illness from COVID, those with compromised immune systems, those who are older, and those with underlying medical conditions.

Vaccination is highly urged.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit floridahealthcovid19.gov.

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