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COVID cases tick downward

Kid cases 'brutal' in hospital's ICU

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 7, 2021

While COVID-19 is still very much present in the Southwest Florida community, Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci shared some encouraging words Tuesday afternoon that the recent spike in local cases may be on the decline.

After detailing how Lee Health saw nearly double the number of patients compared to last year’s peak, Antonucci said, “But now I’m feeling cautiously optimistic, because our numbers over the past week have continued to go down with the exception of one day.”

As of Tuesday morning, Lee Health was caring for 525 COVID-positive patients in their inpatient hospitals, the lowest total since Aug. 13. He said since last Thursday, there have been four days where COVID discharges outweighed admissions.

“I really hope we’re seeing a downward trend in these cases,” Antonucci said.

While some positive news is better than no positive news, Antonucci reminded the public that Lee Health is still dealing with hospitals nearing capacity. As of Tuesday, Lee Health facilities were 97% full, as were Intensive Care Units.

“We’re still not out of the woods yet, we’re still facing significant capacity issues,” Antonucci said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 995 deaths reported at Lee Health facilities due to COVID-related issues, including 13 on Monday. Antonucci gave a moment of silence for those who passed in his address Tuesday.

Golisano Children’s Hospital continues to see youths come into their facility with COVID-related symptoms, and 15 were in their care as of Tuesday morning. Antonucci said Golisano also is being used for some adult patients to make up for otherwise full facilities in their network.

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

Inside the pediatric ICU

Lee Health nurse Tami Anderson, who works inside of the pediatric ICU at Golisano and has been a nurse for 38 years, said all of her prior experiences have been a “dress rehearsal” for COVID, which she called the “main event.”

“And it’s a brutal one,” she said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a virus that is more indiscriminate, that it is more unpredictable, or that is more brutal than COVID-19 has been on our children. This is kind of a new thing for us. We’re seeing children from as young as a week or two of age all the way up to 17 and 18 years old come into our intensive care unit very, very ill with conditions we don’t usually see in children – like blood clots in their lungs, like 15- and 16-year-old healthy children, male and female, coming into the ICU not even strong enough to be able to walk into their own beds. They can’t breathe. They can’t move. They can’t get up.

“And I don’t know how to describe to you what the emotions are of a mother and a father that comes in with their child that are that sick,” she said with tears in her eyes. “These are our kids. They can’t breathe. The terror that these parents feel as they watch out children coming into this unit – they’re afraid, they don’t know what to expect.”

Anderson said her best advice is to protect yourself and protect your children, and that you certainly don’t want to have to visit her in the ICU. “Although I will do everything I can for you if you walk through our doors,” she said.

By the numbers

As of Tuesday morning, Lee Health had 525 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 209 new COVID-19 admissions and 217 COVID-19 discharges since Friday. Of that total, 15 are under the age of 18.

Since the start of the pandemic, Lee Health has reported 995 patient deaths inside of their hospitals to COVID-19 related complications, including 13 on Monday.

Census as of Tuesday morning was at 97% 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, 42% of ventilators and 3% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Tuesday, there were 75 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 88 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