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Lee Health COVID-19 Media Update

By Staff | Mar 26, 2020

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Lawrence Antonucci provided a community update on the new coronavirus, COVID-19, Friday morning.

His remarks from the daily update:

Yesterday the Lee County Board of County Commissioners held an emergency meeting, and I, along with my colleagues Lisa Sgarlata and Dr. Alex Daneshmand, shared perspectives on how we can best keep our community safe from this invisible threat we are all facing. I echo the words of Chairman Hamman and County Manager Roger Desjarlais: Stay home.

As medical professionals there are a lot of invisible enemies we face, but there is a key difference in our fight against COVID-19. There are no known ways that, as a community, we can prevent devastating diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s or ALS. However, we know every single person living in Lee County and Southwest Florida can help stop the spread COVID-19. Stay at home. Buy groceries, go to necessary doctor appointments and after that stay home. Viruses like this require new hosts to continue their treacherous paths, and more than any other disease that inflicts human beings, we have the ability to stop it in its tracks.

Thank you to the County Commissioners for inviting us yesterday. We are using a predictive analysis model that illustrates the impact of social distancing on the spread of COVID-19 in our community. If we can get to 60 percent social distancing, we believe that we have the capacity to fully care for our community. We estimate that the community’s social distancing is currently between 30-40 percent, and I am appreciative of the work the county is doing to help our community to get to 60 percent or higher. We will share an updated model with them again tomorrow, and the Board of County Commissioners will meet again on Monday to access if further actions are needed.

Here are today’s numbers:

We currently have 11 COVID-19 patients isolated in our hospitals.

We have submitted a total of 1,757 specimens for testing, and we have had a total of 30 presumptive positives since March 6. There are additional cases in the community. The Florida Department of Health is reporting out the total count on their dashboard.

We have 118 employees quarantined at home.

Yesterday, our mobile collection sites collected 172 specimens.

Lee TeleHealth had 186 virtual visits yesterday.

Following up on questions we’ve received from reporters

We learned yesterday that two Lee Health employees who were exposed at work have tested positive for COVID-19. Doctors and nurses are the heroes on the frontlines of this fight, putting themselves at risk to care for their patients. I am incredibly thankful for the tireless work they do and their willingness to provide care during these extraordinary circumstance. We wish them a speedy recovery.

In the coming days we will be temporarily consolidating our outpatient facilities. Surfside, Sanctuary, Coconut Point, HealthPark Commons and the Regional Cancer Center will remain open. We will be redeploying as many employees from the other facilities as possible. As the volume in outpatient facilities has declined there has also been an increase the need for additional employees in our inpatient facilities, and many employees from the outpatient setting will be able to help ease the burden in the hospitals.

We are hearing loud and clear from the community their frustration over the amount of time it is taking to get test results returned. We understand that it can be incredibly stressful to develop symptoms, get tested and then have to wait a week or more to get results back. We are at the mercy of the labs who are testing our specimens, and results have been coming in anywhere between 2 and 10 days. We continue to expand the number of commercial labs we are sending specimens to in an effort to get tests turned around quicker, but the fact is they are all overwhelmed. We are also getting closer to being able to perform the tests in-house, which will drastically reduce turnaround time. I don’t yet have an exact timeline on when in-house testing will be available, but we are working hard to get that up and running for our patients.