Officials everywhere: Stay home
Gov. Ron DeSantis has a message for those 65-plus and anyone with existing medical conditions: Stay home for the next two weeks.
And for everyone else?
Stay home, too.
DeSantis this week directed Florida’s Surgeon General, Dr. Rivkees, to issue a public health advisory urging the following:
Persons 65 years or older are encouraged to stay home for 14 days;
Persons with certain underlying medical conditions are encouraged to stay home for 14 days;
All employers are encouraged to utilize telework; and
Consistent with CDC guidance, all individuals should avoid social gatherings of 10 or more.
President Donald Trump, also on Tuesday, granted DeSantis’ request to declare a major disaster for the state of Florida, that will grant federal assistance to areas affected by COVID-19.
“That obviously opens up more federal funds for us, which we’re very appreciative of. We’re glad that we were able to get that going,” DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday.
DeSantis warned of the burden on the heath care systems throughout the state and said Florida has spent $208 million on unemployment, food stamps and other areas that have been impacted directly by COVID-19.
Trump’s approving Florida’s Disaster Declaration makes federal funding available for Crisis Counseling for affected individuals in Florida. Federal funding, according to the White House Office of the Press Secretary, also is available to State, tribal and eligible local governments and certain nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for all areas in the state of Florida impacted by COVID-19.
The governor also issued an extended Executive Order to require anyone who travels to Florida from New York by any means — plane, car or what have you– to “self-isolate” for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in the Sunshine State, whichever is shorter.
Violating the order is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500.
DeSantis issued another Executive Order on Thursday to make telehealth services more easily available to hospitals. Also, state employees seeking immunization services under this Executive Order for the influenza vaccination, will have costs waived effective immediately through theexpiration of Executive Order.
By the numbers
As of Thursday at press time, there were 2,355 positive cases of the new coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 online Dashboard.
A total of 27,539 individuals had been tested to 23,741 testing negative and 1,443 pending. Of those testing positive, 377 required hospitalization. There have been 28 deaths, including a third in Lee County reported Tuesday. As of Thursday there were 56 positive cases and 19 reported hospitalizations. Ages of those who have tested positive in the county range from 10-90 — 13 being travel-related, 35 non travel-related and eight unknown.
According to the FDOH dashboard, as of Thursday afternoon, there were 76,514 cases in the United States with 1,093 deaths. Globally, the FDOH dashboard reports 511,603 total cases with 23,067 deaths.
Lee Health’s daily update on Thursday saw 11 patients in their care who have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, an increase from eight on Wednesday.
Lee Health has submitted 1,757 specimens for testing with 30 presumptive positives since March 6.
Two Lee Health employees tested positive for the virus, reported Lee Health President and CEO Larry Antonucci in a media briefing Thursday.
“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 circumstances. We wish them a speedy recovery,” Antonucci said.
Antonucci also announced that 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.”
Antonucci said that its facilities are all overwhelmed with demands for testing, with results often taking a week or longer to receive from the labs.
“We are also getting closer to being able to perform the tests in-house,” Antonucci said.
Also reported in the call was that 172 specimens were collected on Wednesday at their mobile collection sites at Page Field at the Cape Coral Sports Complex. Lee TeleHealth also conducted 186 virtual visits with patients on Wednesday.
“We are hearing loud and clear from the community their frustration over the amount of time it is taking to get test results returned,” Antonucci said. “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 two 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.”
County holds off
to reconvene Monday
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners met for an emergency meeting Wednesday where they urged the public to stay home.
They did not declare a shelter-in-place order and decided to keep county parks open for now. They will reconvene Monday at 9:30 a.m. to review how seriously the community is taking social distancing.
“You need to stay home,” said Commission Chair, Brian Hamman. “Let’s stop calling it social distancing and start calling it staying home. Think about your life in wants vs. needs. Ask yourself if you need to leave the house or wants to. If it’s a want, stay home.”
The county is looking for 60 percent social distancing within the community, with estimations currently around 35 percent, according to Lisa Sgarlata, Lee Health’s chief nursing officer.
She said even at 40 percent, there would be a decrease in admissions of about 57 percent.
Cape Council closes all parks, city golf course
Cape Coral City Council on Monday voted unanimously to close all city parks and the Coral Oaks Golf Course effective immediately and until at least April 6.
Many concerns were raised by council members on what the city is doing to combat the spread of COVID-19, and whether actions taken or proposed are enough.
That discussion prompted the immediate closure of all city parks and Coral Oaks Golf course. Council also discussed the closure of city boat ramps and the farmer’s market — two areas that will be a focus of the board’s next meeting set for April 6.
“We’re in a situation right now, where this is going to get worse before it gets better. And as a city, if we don’t take the necessary steps to close more stuff down, it’s only going to add to the spread of coronavirus,” Mayor Joe Coviello said. “I think we need to take a hard look at all of (the city’s) facilities, and figure out — even if it’s just for two weeks — do we really need to have them all open?”
Council members said they would like to see parking lots to many parks shut down to help deter those who have to drive to them, as well as signs noting closure.
Coviello asked Cape Coral Police Department Deputy Chief Lisa Barnes how the police could help enforce park closures.
“We can have (officers) patrolling that area, where it could get tricky is, issuing trespass warnings and people telling us they’re not going to leave,” Barnes said.
City Attorney, Dolores Menendez, said she would work with CCPD on how they city can expand their policies for trespassing that are already in place to comply with round-the-clock closures.
City Council also prompted Code Enforcement to take a relaxed stance on local restaurants and establishments that are advertising for take-out and delivery services.
The discussion was prompted by an email from Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President/CEO Donna Germain requesting the easing of the code during this time.
Councilmember Jessica Cosden brought the resolution forward and said she will work with staff on further plans for signage code for the April 6 meeting.
“Temporarily, until April 6, businesses will be allowed two signs of their choice, either hanging banners or A-Frames,” Coviello said.
These banners and signs still will have to be within code when it comes to size. Permitting requirements and fees for signage will also be waived until April 6.
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