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Lee County reports increase in COVID-19 positives; reports third death from the virus

By Staff | Mar 24, 2020

Lee County has seen its third death from the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Lee Health President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lawrence Antonucci led the health system’s daily update with the news, offering condolences to the individual’s family while stressing the importance of the single most important thing the community can to do to stem the number of cases: “social distancing.”

“Before we begin, I am saddened to inform you that we have had a third patient pass away from COVID-19,” Antonucci said Tuesday afternoon. “This patient was being cared for at HealthPark Medical Center. Our hearts go out to their family as they mourn the loss of their loved one.”

He thanked Lee County’s doctors, providers, nurses, CNAs and other front-line medical staff before emphasizing the number of cases and their mathematical growth as the pandemic widens.

“Exponential growth is real and it is concerning,” Antonucci said during the 2:30 p.m. media briefing conference call. “It took 11 days for the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide to grow from 100,000 to 200,000, and just four days to go from 200,000 to 300,000. Our community can do its part to help slow this trend in Southwest Florida, but the time is now. Social distancing isn’t just about protecting any one individual, but it is about showing compassion to those who are at higher risk, like medical workers, the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems. Therefore, I support what our governmental leaders are doing to enforce this distancing, and to take additional steps where possible to increase it.

“I can’t thank our health care workers enough for what they are doing for our community, and as you go about your day and week I ask that you keep them in mind, and think about what you can do to play a role in stopping this devastating pandemic,” he added.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the health system, which has submitted a total of 1,178 specimens for testing and has had a total of 17 presumptive positives since March 6, had 10 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals.

This is not a countywide total.

That total, according to the Florida Department of Health, stood at 1,412 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Florida as of Tuesday afternoon. There have been 259 hospitalizations statewide due to the disease with 18 deaths. In Lee County, there were a total of 32 cases as of Tuesday morning with 14 hospitalizations.

Individuals tested statewide as of Tuesday totaled 15,547: the 1,412 positives, 13,127 negatives and 1,008 pending results.

For most individuals, symptoms are mild and do not result in a life-threatening illness. Older individuals, and those with pre-existing health issues are most at risk and are strongly urged to stay home to mitigate exposure to the virus, which is considered highly contagious.

Of the confirmed positive cases in Lee County, most are 60 or older. Cases also include at least three individuals in their 50s as well as a 23-year-old male resident of Florida who traveled to Tennessee and a 21-year-old female who is not a Florida resident who traveled to Spain.

Lee Health has two mobile collection sites, one at Lee Convenient Care on Cleveland Avenue and the other at the Cape Coral Sports Complex. A doctor’s order, and an appointment, are required for testing at the mobile testing centers.

Lee Health collected 125 specimens between the two sites and Monday with 169 appointments scheduled for Tuesday.

The system also is offering virtual doctor’s visits.

Lee TeleHealth had 193 virtual visits Monday on its Telehealth platform, officials said.

In answer to questions about supplies, Antonucci said they are in conservation mode and compliant with Centers for Disease Control parameters.

“We are doing everything we can to conserve supplies and encourage appropriate use of personal protective equipment while ensuring that our staff is fully-protected to do their jobs,” he said. “We are following CDC guidelines in regards to the limited reuse of some types of PPE. We are thankful for the support that has allowed us to keep our supply levels adequate to date, but we know shortages could be coming if we continue to experience exponential spread of the disease.”

The system has had “dozens of individuals and organizations reach out to offer assistance,” he added.

“Earlier today we received 15 boxes of gloves from a nail salon in Cape Coral, Nail Art & Co. When the guys dropped them off, they wanted no receipt, no thanks and no recognition. They just wanted to do their part in helping Lee Health and our providers. We are seeing this generosity from across the community, as people realize we are Stronger Together. I want to thank everyone who has offered to help, and encourage them to keep reaching out,” Antonucci said.