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Lee Health readies: Confirmed COVID-19 cases expected to jump

By Staff | Apr 6, 2020

Lee County can expect to see a drastic rise in COVID-19 patients over the next two to three weeks, Lee Heath officials warned on April 2.

Meanwhile, mobile collection sites at Page Field and Cape Coral Sports Complex saw their highest collection numbers to date on April 1 (233 specimens), with that trend expected to continue.

“It is in that vein that I want the Southwest Florida community to be aware that if we follow the current trends, we are going to see an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases over the next 2-3 weeks,” Lee Health President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Larry Antonucci said on April 2. “Ten days ago we had 34 cases in Lee County, and 119 cases five days ago. As of this morning we have 245 cases in the county. If this trajectory continues we could hit 500 as soon as next week. As a community we need to be prepared for what is coming and take every precaution.”

Lee Health had 45 COVID-19 patients isolated in their hospitals. Seventeen patients who had tested positive were discharged.

Lee Health had 184 employees quarantined at home and eight employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

Lee TeleHealth had 154 virtual visits on April 2.

Lee Health has submitted a total of 3,337 specimens for testing, yielding a total of 169 presumptive positives since March 6.

“Recently we have seen about a 48-(hour), 72-hour turnaround time on new tests as the commercial labs have worked through their backlogs,” Antonucci said. “We expect to begin in-house testing of specimens next week, and the reduced turnaround time will paint a clearer picture of what we are dealing with, and what steps need to be taken to help keep our community safe. These sites continue to operate seven days a week, requiring a physician’s order and an appointment before we can collect the specimen.”

Lee Health had 249 patients “under investigation,” a term used for those awaiting test results.

In addition, the 216-bed expansion at Gulf Coast Medical Center opened on April 2 – two months ahead of schedule.

“Throughout the day we will be moving patients to the COVID-19 cohort unit and begin to care for those patients there,” Antonucci said. “I again want to thank everyone who worked so hard to get these beds up and running two months early to help support our community during this time.”

Antonucci also addressed the reportedly high mortality rate among Lee County residents.

“At first look, it may appear that way, but the truth is our numbers are too small at this point to come to statistically significant conclusions,” he said. “Right now, the number of patients who are positive for COVID-19 is relatively low, so one death shifts the percentage and mortality rate significantly. To ensure we have the clearest picture of COVID-19 cases and the mortality rate of the coronavirus in our community, we need people to get tested. We need to rule out those who are negative and quarantine those who are positive and, if necessary, hospitalize those who need a higher level of care.”