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Lee Health: COVID-19 admissions trend downward

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 21, 2021

During Lee Health’s weekly COVID-19 community update, President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said admissions continue to trend in a downward direction, but that everyone has to play their part to ensure that another spike does not occur.

“This pandemic is still there. It’s still out there,” Antonucci said. “And I think it’s very important that we not look at (COVID deaths) as numbers — these are people, these are mothers and fathers and daughters and sons, and each one of them has a family that loves them and grieves their loss as we do. And we always need to remember that.”

Long haul symptoms

Lee Health Pulmonologist and Critical Care Specialist Dr. Jordan Taillon spoke of the “long haul” symptoms of COVID-19 both front line healthcare workers and patients have been experiencing.

“I’ve gotten to see the whole spectrum of the COVID-19 pandemic, and both the acute and the long-term and lasting effects on the staff and also on the patients we have treated,” he said.

He said his outpatient practice, along with his time in the Intensive Care Unit, has brought to light a long road of recovery for some individuals.

“This is not necessarily one of those diseases where you get it, you feel weak, fatigued, maybe have a cough, some muscle aches for seven to 14 days and then you feel back to yourself,” Taillon said. “Quite often symptoms continue for months, and even up to a year. The scary part is that this second wave has not only affected the elderly, and the immunocompromised, but has been seen in many young, and even healthy people.”

He said he’s heard many young and healthy individuals have stated they had not taken the virus as seriously as they should.

Antonucci, before introducing Taillon, said recent studies have shown 27% to 33% of COVID-19 positive patients continue to have symptoms after four weeks.

“For those who are able to leave the hospital, often times the recovery journey is just beginning,” Taillon continued. “It is very common for people after being discharged home to have severe fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, tightness and a chronic cough.”

He said less common but still very present effects include dizziness, insomnia, headaches, joint pain and upper airway congestion.

Medical professionals are also seeing psychological tolls being paid from the virus.

“Many people suffer from PTSD, memory problems and sever anxiety, which can even be debilitating,” Taillon said.

He also spoke of a study that looked at 1,300 people who were discharged home after having the virus. Taillon said that 40% were completely independent with activities of daily living.

“That means 60% of the people who had left the hospital and discharged were still not able to fully function at 30 days. And that’s not counting the many thousands of people who have not left the hospitals,” Taillon said. “Another study showed that most patients discharged from the hospital had significant symptoms for at least two months, and often times up to a year.”

Sharing her story

Lee Health Clinical Coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital Niki Shimko talked about her continued road to normalcy after being diagnosed with COVID-19 just over year ago.

“I come to you today not as a nurse, I come to you as a patient, as a neighbor, as a friend, to kind of tell you a little bit about my journey with COVID,” she said.

Shimko, a healthy mother of three and very active in the community, said she was not prepared for the lasting impacts of the virus upon her diagnosis.

Her first two weeks were spent in bed sick, the following two being a constant battle with herself to muster the strength to get up and back to a normal routine.

Then another aspect of the virus hit.

“I wasn’t prepared for some of the mental aspects of it that I faced as well,” she said. “The ‘who did I expose? Who may die because I’ve exposed them now?’ All of those fears that came in with it. And then being secluded from your family, your (daughters), your husband, wasn’t easy.”

Once cleared to return to work, Shimko said she couldn’t walk down the hall or to her car without being short of breath.

“The whole thing really took nine months for me to get back to not being on any medications for a cough or shortness of breath,” she said.

Shimko said she chose to get vaccinated as to not put anyone through what she had experienced.

“It wasn’t fun. Quite honestly…it sucked. I am one of the lucky ones,” she said.

By the numbers

As of Tuesday morning, Lee Health had 287 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 28 new COVID-19 admission and 36 COVID-19 discharges since Monday. Lee Health also reported 76 new COVID-19 admissions and 87 COVID-19 discharges over the weekend. Of Tuesday’s total, 11 are under the age of 18 and three are in the ICU.

Since the start of the pandemic, Lee Health has reported 1,109 patient deaths inside of its hospitals due to COVID-19 related complications, including eight on Monday.

Census as of Tuesday morning was at 92% 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, 57% of ventilators and 6% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Tuesday, there were 52 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 80 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

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