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Florida Surgeon General: COVID-19 peak to come mid-May

By Staff | Mar 30, 2020

While Lee Health treats 31 patients for COVID-19 in their facilities across the county and the cases rise across the state, Florida’s Surgeon General believes the state’s peak numbers won’t be seen for another six weeks.

President and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci, said on Monday’s media call after speaking in front of the county commissioners, that Dr. Scott Rivkees feels the state’s peak outbreak will be sometime in mid-May.

“Over the weekend I spoke with Florida’s Surgeon General, Dr. Scott Rivkees,” Dr. Antonucci said. “Dr. Rivkees told me that he suspects the peak of Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak won’t come until the middle of May. If he is right, that is six more weeks until we start to return to normalcy. As I have said over the last few weeks, it will be hard, but we will get through this together and come out the other end of this fight as a stronger and more unified community.”

The number of patients in Lee Health’s care who have tested positive is the highest number to date. According to the Florida Department of Health, there are 164 total cases in Lee County; 156 being residents. Six have died and 40 hospitalized.

Lee Health has submitted a total of 2,602 specimens for testing, yielding 103 presumptive positives since March 6.

Lee Heath has 136 employees quarantined at home and four employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

On Sunday, their mobile collection sites at Page Field and Cape Coral Sports Complex collected 43 specimens and Lee TeleHealth had 94 virtual visits.

Dr. Antonucci also commented on the high mortality rate in Lee County, calling it the highest or second highest in the state.

Across the state, 5,743 have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 652 hospitalizations and 63 deaths.

Dr. Antonucci spoke of his appearance at the commissioners’ emergency meeting this morning, where they punched up their stay-home recommendation but stopped short of an order that would require residents to shelter in place.

“I applaud the commissioners for voting to adopt an emergency resolution that mirrors the Florida Surgeon General’s March 25 recommendations,” Dr. Antonucci said. “We are appreciative of the continued dialogue with the Commission as we continue to advocate for measures that will eventually create maximum social distancing.

“Every leader in this community is facing some of the toughest decisions of their lives, but we are all working toward the shared goal of keeping Southwest Florida safe and healthy. I am proud of the way our residents heeded these warnings over the weekend. Roads and non-essential stores were nearly empty. If we continue to practice this type of aggressive social distancing, we can greatly limit the number of cases that strike our region.”

Other than their 31 patients who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Dr. Antonucci said Lee Health has 238 patients who are designated as PUIs, or, “Persons under investigation.

“A PUI is someone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath, and needs a lab test to rule out COVID-19,” Dr. Antonucci said. “Many of these patients will end up not having the virus, but until cleared they are treated the same as every COVID-19 patient. They are in isolation units where doctors and nurses must wear protective gear that is becoming in short supply, prescribed medicine that is sometimes hard to procure, and they are beginning to put pressure on the health system.”

Dr. Antonucci reported that about 27 percent of patients currently admitted at Lee Health hospitals are PUIs.

Officials said due to the fact faculties have not reached capacity — an unusual occurrence for this time of year — they urge the public to continue social distancing so that the strain on the health care system does not become one they can’t handle.

“We continue to have adequate beds and resources to care for all of our community today, but as the number of cases grows there is no guarantee our local health care systems won’t become strained,” Dr. Antonucci said.

Obstetrical nursing units will also have an additional adjustment to their visitation policy.

“We are now restricting our OB units to one consistent support person per patient,” Dr. Antonucci said. “This will reduce OB visitation by about 33 percent, and help protect the health and safety of mom and baby. We understand this is a hardship for new parents, and we would not do it for any other reason but for the protection of our newborns. We are encouraging FaceTime and Skype visits so that loved ones can meet the new baby.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj