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Lee Health: 39 COVID deaths in 19 days

Free COVID test kits now available through federal website

By CJ HADDAD - | Jan 21, 2022

Lee Health officials on Wednesday said 39 individuals have died due to COVID-19 in the first 19 days of 2022, including nine on Monday and Tuesday.

“While the omicron variant of the coronavirus generally causes less severe infection in the average adult, it is having an acute effect on many others who end up hospitalized, in the intensive care unit (ICU), or worse,” said Lee Health spokesperson Jonathon Little in an email. “We urge the community to take steps now to protect themselves: Get vaccinated or boosted today if you have not already done so, wear a mask in public, frequently wash your hands and socially distance yourself from others. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost their battles to COVID-19.”

Lee Health did not detail if there were any additional deaths in Thursday’s COVID-19 report.

By the Numbers

As of Thursday morning, there were 340 COVID-19 patients isolated at Lee Health inpatient hospitals. Of those patients, 10 are being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

As of Thursday morning, hospital census 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. Census in the intensive care unit was at 95% of staffed operational bed capacity on Thursday. There were 36 COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

On Wednesday, Lee Health emergency departments saw 831 patients and Lee Convenient Care saw 337 patients.

Officials added that Lee TeleHealth is currently free and an easy alternative to avoid longer than normal wait times at urgent care centers.

Lee Health is making this service free for community members so they can utilize urgent care telehealth services from the comfort of their homes. This option allows anyone with non-life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms to avoid long COVID-19 testing lines, Lee Convenient Care locations and the emergency department. Lee Health emergency departments are not designated COVID-19 testing locations. The normal cost of a visit is $49.

“Lee TeleHealth is an on-demand medical service that connects patients directly with a physician or advanced provider and is available 24/7,” officials said. “All you need to use Lee TeleHealth is a smartphone, tablet or a computer with a webcam.”

To access Lee Telehealth, download the Lee Health app or visit www.LeeTelehealth.org.

At home COVID testing

Free at-home COVID test kits may now be ordered on a new federal website.

As part of a program announced by the Biden Administration, rapid tests may be ordered at covidtests.gov.

One request, which will provide four free tests, may be made per address. The tests will be mailed.

“Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests,” the site states. “The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.

“Order your tests now so you have them when you need them.”

As explained on the website, the at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests:

* Are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCR

* Can be taken anywhere

* Give results within 30 minutes (no lab drop-off required)

* Work whether or not you have COVID-⁠19 symptoms

* Work whether or not you are up to date on your COVID-⁠19 vaccines

* Are also referred to as self-tests or over-the-counter (OTC) tests

It is suggested that the tests be performed:

* If you begin having COVID-⁠19 symptoms like fever, sore throat, runny nose, or loss of taste or smell, or

* It is at least 5 days after you come into close contact with someone with COVID-⁠19, or

* When you’re going to gather with a group of people, especially those who are at risk of severe disease or may not be up to date on their COVID-⁠19 vaccines.

According to a White House press release issued Jan. 14, the Biden Administration is buying 1 billion tests to expand testing capacity and increase access to free testing.

Online ordering for the first half of the announced purchase was set to begin Wednesday morning but the website actually went live for orders on Tuesday.

In addition, the expanded testing initiative also provides that, as of Jan. 15, private health insurance companies are required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free.

“This means consumers with private health insurance coverage will be able to get these tests for free,” the White House release states. “Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover eight free at-home tests per covered individual per month. That means a family of four, all on the same plan, would be able to get 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. As part of the requirement, the Administration is strongly incentivizing plans and insurers to allow people to get these tests directly through preferred pharmacies or retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, with the plan or insurer covering the cost upfront, eliminating the need for people to submit reimbursement claims.”

At press conference Wednesday, President Biden clarified, saying insured individuals picking the test up at local pharmacies may, instead, be reimbursed.

An additional 10 million COVID-19 tests also have been made available to schools nationwide each month.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

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