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Lee Health reports continuing to treat record numbers of COVID-19 patients

By CJ HADDAD - | Aug 17, 2021

As part of Lee Health’s weekly COVID-19 press conference, the healthcare system’s president and CEO, Dr. Larry Antonucci, addressed the ongoing rise of new cases in the community.

Lee Health continues to see all-time pandemic highs in total number of patients cared for, with that number reaching 571 on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, I think these numbers are going to continue to climb,” he said. “We’re just not seeing any turn in the curve. We’re adding cases every single day and we’re breaking records that we just don’t want to break.”

Antonucci added that the patients in their care are becoming sicker, faster. Of those 571 patients, Antonucci reported that 86 are in the Intensive Care Unit, 52 of which are on ventilators.

“This has far surpassed last year’s surge, where the highest number we saw last July was 372,” he said.

The number of local youth being treated for COVID-19 at Golisano Children’s Hospital has also seen a rise. Antonucci said Golisano has averaged one to two patients per day throughout the pandemic, and as of Tuesday there were seven, four being in the ICU.

“We’re facing a situation that we’ve never really faced before. The virus has mutated and has created this Delta variant. The Delta variant is much more contagious – it’s at least twice as contagious as the prior forms of the virus. And the more the virus replicates in our community, the more likely we are to see other variants and other mutations, and that’s what’s very, very worrisome as we look at this.”

Antonucci said the new variant is responsible for the current influx of new COVID-19 patients seen across Lee Health facilities, many of which are unvaccinated. He noted 86% of patients in hospitals for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, while 96% of ICU occupants share the same trait.

“We know based on our data, that this is primarily a disease of the unvaccinated. The virus is out there looking for unvaccinated people to infect,” he said.

Lee Health has seen nearly 800 patients die from the virus since the pandemic began, 128 coming in the last 90 days. Antonucci said the Delta variant has a more significant impact on younger patients compared to the previous strain.

“We are losing patients every day. Patients are dying from this, and they’re patients in their 20s and 30 and 40s. This is not like it was last year where the vast majority of deaths were people in their 80s and 90s.”

Antonucci urged those in the community who have not received a vaccination and are eligible to do so, and reported that recent vaccination numbers have increased nearly 75% in recent weeks.

“This is a very real threat to the community, and we have to do everything we can,” he said.

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.

By the numbers

As of Tuesday morning, Lee Health had 571 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 81 new COVID-19 admissions and 56 COVID-19 discharges since Monday. Over the weekend, Lee Health saw 177 new COVID-19 admissions and 113 discharges.

According to Lee Health officials, roughly 14% of their admitted COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday morning were fully vaccinated according to their medical charts.

Census as of Tuesday morning was at 90% 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 Tuesday, 63% of ventilators and 29% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Tuesday, there were 52 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 86 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.

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