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County gears up in case COVID-19 cases spike

By Staff | Apr 10, 2020

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has deployed the resources for a 250-bed field hospital to Lee County, where it will be staged until there is a need for additional support in the area.

The equipment will essentially be “parked” in trailers at the Lee County Mosquito Control District at Buckingham Airfield, then set up and opened if and when necessary.

The field hospital will be staged at LCMCD until a final location is identified.

“My understanding is, from working with (Lee County Emergency Management), who works with the state, that when the Department of Emergency Management decides there is a need to set up temporary hospitals and they determine the exact location where it would be best, they can come and retrieve the equipment,” LCMCD spokesperson Eric Jackson said.

Where the field hospital could open, and when, is not yet determined and will based on need.

The Southwest Florida population is a large one, and being prepared is not a bad thing with nearly 1,000 positive cases coming out of Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties combined, officials said.

“It’s a preemptive precaution to make sure that they have the equipment, if it’s necessary,” Jackson said.

Lee Health President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Larry Antonucci on April 10 addressed the bed-field hospital.

“This was done out of caution, to be prepared should our area need additional support,” he said. “As of today we continue to have the capacity to serve our area, and the state won’t open the field hospital as long as that continues. If it does open, this facility is designed to serve as overflow for area hospitals and is not intended for ICU or critical patients. It is too soon to know if it will be required to open the field hospital in the future, but we are thankful for the state’s support of our region should it be needed.”

Jackson said the LCMCD is glad to play a part in assisting the state during this time.

“We’re happy to support in anyway we can,” he said. “To be able to provide space to help out, we’re happy to do that.”

As of April 10, Lee Health had 74 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals. Seventy patients who had tested positive have been discharged, up 10 from April 9.

The system has submitted a total of 5,542 specimens for testing.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on April 9 collected 246 specimens and had a total of 777 telemedicine visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChart Video.

The system has 11 patients under investigation.

Lee Health has 126 employees quarantined at home. Twenty-five employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

Antonucci did warn of a potential rise in numbers in the coming days simply due to the efficiency of testing, now being done at four Lee Health facilities.

“While evidence continues to show we are flattening the curve locally, we may see a short-term spike in the number of reported cases in Lee County,” he said. “This is not because of an increased spread of the virus, but a product of the more efficient testing we now have available to us. As of this morning, we only have three tests pending health systemwide.”