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CMS issues guidelines for hospitals to reopen some services

By Staff | Apr 21, 2020

As the curve reportedly continues to flatten in Southwest Florida when it comes to COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently released guidelines to hospitals to begin to reopen some services that have halted due to the pandemic.

This would include restarting some elective surgeries that were put on hold, unless absolutely necessary, to keep available as many beds as possible.

CMS guidelines call for systems to use telemedicine as often as possible. While telemedicine is great and certainly the future, there are procedures that must be done in person.

“CMS encourages the maximum use of telemedicine, which we are doing here at Lee Health, but recognizes that not all services can be provided virtually. These guidelines include evaluating the state of COVID-19 in our community and prioritizing patients based on necessity and complexity of the procedures being performed,” Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said Monday. “When we do begin performing elective surgeries again, patient safety will remain our top priority. We will put into place precautions such as screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms and performing the surgeries in non-COVID areas of our facilities. We will also ensure that proper distancing and masking protocols are followed in public areas.”

Antonucci said by following CMS guidelines, Lee Health and its personnel will be able to safely perform procedures when the state deems appropriate to lift the prohibition on elective procedures.

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m., Tuesday, there are 27,495 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 437 since FDOH’s last update Monday evening.

The death toll increased by 16 overnight, reported among Lee, Broward, Dade, Escambia, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties.

A total of 277,685 individuals have been tested: 249,564 have tested negative, 626 tests were inconclusive and 1,203 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 4,063 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 839 deaths.

While Florida’s testing has increased over the past week, the percent of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 10 percent. Of the 10,729 tests performed on April 20, there were 1,054 positive results, or 9 percent.

In Lee County, 789 individuals have tested positive as of 6 p.m. Monday; 287 in Fort Myers, 161 in Cape Coral, 151 in Lehigh Acres, 73 in Bonita Springs, 30 in Estero, 29 in North Fort Myers, six in Sanibel, six on Fort Myers Beach, five in Alva, one on Captiva, one in Boca Grande and one in Saint James City. Four positives were not classified by community.

The youngest to test positive is an infant boy, who tested positive on April 10. The oldest was a 100-year-old man who tested positive on April 3. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 29 deaths in Lee County. All but one was between the ages 61 to 96, with 26 aged 65 or older. The exception was a 39-year-old man who died March 25.

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 Tuesday morning, Lee Health had 75 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals, a decrease of four from Saturday. A total of 147 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including eight on Monday.

The system has submitted a total of 8,197 specimens for testing with zero results pending as of Tuesday morning.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on Monday collected 198 specimens and had a total of 1,051 telemedicine visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChartVideo.

Lee Health has 165 employees quarantined at home. Thirty employees currently are positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

Current bed capacity is now at 61 percent with 8 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

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.

Curve continuing to flatten;

may have seen peak

Antonucci said Monday while he continues to field question about when a “peak” number of cases are to be expected in the county, it may have already happened.

“We continue to see a leveling off of cases, and it is possible that we have already experienced the peak in our community, but it is too soon to say for sure at this point,” he said. “The good news is, we have not seen the expected surge and currently have the capacity needed to continue to serve all patients. As we begin to think about the phases of returning to normalcy, we must continue to practice distancing, good hand hygiene and the use of masks or we run the risk of undoing all the progress we have made in slowing the spread of COVID-19.”

Mayo Clinic Study launched Monday

On Monday, Lee Health officially became an official site participating in the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Study.

The first collection of donations took place Tuesday at Lee Memorial Hospital’s blood center.

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.

“We have already received over 30 inquiries from patients interested in making a donation as part of this study, and are in the process of scheduling the first collections,” Antonucci said. “As in any clinical research study, it is unknown if the treatment will be therapeutic and there are risks involved. 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.”

Lee Health asks any patient who has recovered after previously testing positive for COVID-19 and is interested in donating their blood to participate to contact their blood centers at COVID.plasma@leehealth.org.

Donated iPads Help Families Connect

Members of the community have stepped up to better connect families who are dealing with limited visitation policies at local hospitals.

Through the Lee Foundation, 30 iPads were donated to assist with virtual patient visitation. These devices were configured with an app that creates a link to send to a family member or a friend to start a video chat. The iPads have been distributed throughout the Lee Health system and they hope to set up more tablets to keep loved ones in touch in the immediate future.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter:@haddad_cj