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‘Social distancing is working’

By Staff | Apr 9, 2020

According to Lee Health officials, social distancing is working in our community.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said Thursday that locally, the curve is steadily beginning to flatten. Yet, this is no time to disregard guidelines.

“We are continuing to see a flattening of the curve locally. Physical distancing is working, and updated models are showing positive results from our efforts,” Antonucci said. “I am so proud of our community for embracing the guidelines of distancing and masking that have slowed the spread of this virus. We are defeating this disease, and more and more people are recovering. In each of the last two days we have discharged more COVID-19 patients than we have admitted. Over 60 employees who had been quarantined at home were cleared to return to work yesterday. This is good news, but now is not the time for complacency. These trends can and will reverse if we try to return to normalcy too soon.”

Antonucci reminded residents that their continued compliance with social distancing should continue to eradicate the virus from the area and, potentially, a second wave of the virus.

“While we have strung together a few days of good news, but it is very important to not take this for granted,” Antonucci said. “If people continue to stay home and wear masks until health care experts advise otherwise, we will continue to save lives and lessen the risk of a devastating second wave of COVID-19.”

By the Numbers

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, there are 16,364 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 462 since FDOH’s last update Thursday morning.

The death toll increased by 17 from the Thursday morning to evening update.

A total of 156,852 individuals have been tested: 139,862 have tested negative.

Of those testing positive, 2,298 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 371 deaths.

The percent of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 11 percent.

An increase in the percentage of positives may reflect more spread of the virus, however it may also be a product of more targeted testing in high-risk groups. The Florida Department of Health said it would continue to monitor this data closely and use it to make informed decisions.

In Lee County, 522 individuals, ranging from as young as 2 to as old as 100, have tested positive as of 6 p.m. Thursday.

While the newest totals per city/town were not available by press time, as of 11 a.m. Thursday, there were 183 cases in Fort Myers, 107 in Cape Coral, 74 in Lehigh Acres, 50 in Bonita Springs, 20 in Estero, 19 in North Fort Myers, six in Sanibel, five on Fort Myers Beach, four in Alva and one on Captiva. One positive was not classified by community.

There have been 14 deaths in Lee County, all but one of a patient age 62 to 96. The exception was a 39-year-old man who died March 25. Overall, 100 patients in the county have been hospitalized due to the virus.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urges all members of the public who can, remain at home so as to limit exposure and so limit the number of cases so as to not overwhelm the health care system with at-risk and severe cases.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 71 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals. Sixty patients who had tested positive have been discharged.

The system has submitted a total of 5,214 specimens for testing.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on Wednesday collected 206 specimens and had a total of 520 telemedicine visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChart Video.The system has 14 patients under investigation.

Lee Health has 132 employees quarantined at home, Twenty-four employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

More from Lee Health

Lee Health began in-house testing this week, expediting test results from days to a 24-hour time frame.

“With the introduction of in-house testing and faster results we have just about cleared the entire backlog of pending tests,” Antonucci said. “As of (Thursday) morning, we only had 25 tests pending results, and at this time last week that number was over 300. Faster testing has also been instrumental in helping employees return to work from quarantine and removing patients from under investigation status.”

Antonucci addressed the accuracy of the tests.

“When we get a positive result, we can rely on its accuracy. On the flip side, can we rely on a negative test result to actually be negative? We don’t know enough about the accuracy of the tests because the virus is so new. Any time we receive a negative test result we use our clinical judgement. A false negative could be because the patient has not yet achieved enough of a viral load to test positive. This is why I always say that we treat patients and their symptoms, not tests. I understand the frustrations of patients who remain in isolation despite a negative test result. We can’t take any chances with this virus, and anyone in our hospital who is showing severe symptoms will be treated as if they have COVID-19 regardless of test results until we can get a second test performed.”

Florida: An at-risk state for seniors

An in-depth study from QuoteWizard, an insurance comparison company by LendingTree, LLC, used CDC information to compare at-risk senior populations by state.

They found that Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Louisiana are the most at-risk states when comparing the number of at-risk seniors and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Their numbers state the CDC estimates that elderly persons have accounted for 80 percent of fatal COVID-19 cases in China and the United States.

The CDC has identified the most at-risk the most at-risk underlying health conditions are chronic lung disease, asthma, heart conditions and diabetes. These health conditions put people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Their report states there are 76 million Americans over the age of 60 with underlying health conditions.

Key findings of the study include:

* Florida’s diabetes rate for seniors is 20.25 percent. That is ranked 23rd in the country.

* The cardiovascular disease rate is 9.50 percent, which is ranked 17th.

* C.O.P.D. rate is 13.55 percent, which is ranked 15th.

* The asthma rate is 10.35 percent, which is ranked 11th.

* West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama have the most at-risk group of seniors.

* Minnesota, Colorado and Massachusetts have the lowest number of at-risk seniors.

* 76 million Americans are over 60 years old with underlying health conditions.

* Michigan, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana are the most at-risk states when comparing the number of at-risk seniors and confirmed cases of COVID-19

Changes at Golisano

Antonucci said that beginning Thursday, the neonatal intensive care unit at Golisano Childrens Hospital is implementing further changes to its visitation policy.

Visitation will be limited to one person for two hours a day between 2 and 8 p.m. Visitors will be screened and examined for signs and for symptoms of the coronavirus before entering the NICU.

“Understanding how important it is to parents to visit their newborns, we are enhancing the availability of two-way video visitation,” he said. “These changes are being made as the number of cases of COVID-19 grow in our area and are intended to protect the health of these vulnerable babies. We will lift the restrictions as soon as possible.”

450-bed field hospital to open in Miami Beach

The State of Florida has partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 450-bed temporary hospital in the Miami Beach Convention Center scheduled to open April 20, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.

Other actions highlighted by the governor at a press conference in Miami Beach include:

* The Department of Elder Affairs has launched Project VITAL (Virtual Inclusive Technology for All), to distribute tablets to residents of Assisted Living Facilities and nursing homes in an effort to keep families connected and mitigate feelings of loneliness or isolation.

* DOEA’s joint meal service initiative with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is delivering over 50,000 meals in the Miami-Dade area on a daily basis.

* Testing continues to be expanded throughout Florida, with 150,000 total completed tests anticipated by the end of the day, April 8.

FGCU Career Development Services postponed

Effective immediately, all recruiting activities should be scheduled by phone or on a virtual platform.

They are working to provide the most up-to-date career resources available at this time to students. They can also make more informed decisions with the most accurate information. FGCU Career Services asks those companies which are still hiring students, for any time slots or positions, to email Mary Larkin at marlarkin@fgcu.edu with information.

On April 21, the Florida Association of Colleges and Employers will host a virtual job fair.

The Florida Career Centers is a consortium of the Career Centers of the twelve public universities in the State of Florida. Their annual Statewide Job Fair that was scheduled in May has been canceled. A virtual job fair is tentatively dated for June 17.

For the latest information, visit www.fgcu.edu/coronaupdate.

– Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj