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Lee looks for answers on the path to a safe ‘re-opening’

By Staff | Apr 17, 2020

With President Donald Trump telling Americans on Thursday that states around the country can start to look to “reopen” depending on certain criteria in phases, Lee Health officials said they will look to local and state leaders for direction when it is Southwest Florida’s time.

“There continues to be increased national conversation about what it will look like as we begin to reopen the country. When this begins, it will have to be a careful and coordinated effort between state and local governments, health care leaders and individual communities,” said Lee Health President and CEO, Dr. Larry Antonucci, Friday afternoon. “Our community has done an exceptional job doing their part to flatten the curve here at home, and I am confident we will all be responsible as we look forward to the next phase of the pandemic.”

Antonucci said there are many factors that play a role into when we can “return to normal.” He stated there are many questions surrounding those factors.

“Namely, how many tests do we have to conduct to understand the prevalence of the virus in our community and how soon will we have a vaccine?” Antonucci said. “There are no clear answers on these questions yet, but we look forward to working with local, state and federal leaders to ensure we move forward in a safe and responsible way.”

As of Friday afternoon, Lee Health had 69 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals. A total of 131 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including eight on Thursday.

The system has submitted a total of 7,482 specimens for testing and currently has zero patients under investigation.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on Thursday collected 191 specimens and had a total of 1,048 telemedicine visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChartVideo.

Lee Health has 170 employees quarantined at home. Thirty-four employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

Current bed capacity is now at 61 percent with 7 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

Beginning Monday, Lee Health will be an official site participating in the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Study.

Lee Health will be actively seeking blood donors who have fully-recovered from COVID-19 — meaning they previously tested positive and are now symptom-free — to participate in the study.

“As in any clinical research study, it is unknown if the treatment will be therapeutic and there are risks involved,” Antonucci said. “However, based on its use to treat other viral infections, researchers hypothesize that the plasma from recovered patients may contain antibodies that may help fight the disease.”

The Cape Coral mobile collection site will be closed Sunday. All appointments for that day will be done at the Fort Myers location. The Cape Coral location will reopen Monday.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj