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Health officials: Re-opening is not immediate return to pre-pandemic ‘life as we knew it’

By Staff | Apr 23, 2020

While talks of “reopening” the state continue to develop, local health officials warn the transition will not be a switch back to life before the pandemic – at least not immediately.

On April 22, Lee Health President Dr. Larry Antonucci said the system is in engaged in continual communication with local leaders to supply them with accurate and necessary data to hopefully guide safe and informed decisions for the community.

“While we work together to determine the next steps, one thing we know is that reopening will not be a return to life as we knew it before COVID-19,” he said. “We will need to proceed cautiously into a new normal with continued masking, social distancing and hand hygiene habits in place to protect ourselves and each other.”

On April 21, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted to re-open most public parks for walking, jogging, hiking and the like. Beach parks remain closed.

“It is important to remember that anyone who takes advantage of these recreational opportunities should make sure they maintain safe physical distancing and wears face protection when in public,” Antonucci said.

While health officials understand the bit of “cabin fever” residents may be experiencing, it is because of social distancing practices that numbers throughout the county have seen a steady decline over the last number of days.

“Out collective efforts are the reason the coronavirus has not had the same exponential spread in our community we have seen in other parts of the country,” Antonucci said. “Just because we have plateaued does not mean it is time to be complacent, a flattened curve is still a curve and does not mean the virus is no longer in our community.”

While the region and state as a whole will be working to find some semblance of a prosperous economy and returning workers to their jobs, lessons learned over the past few months cannot be forgotten, he said.

“Stay vigilant and stay safe, and as we slowly reopen, please continue the same safety precautions that have become second nature over the last two months,” Antonucci said.

As of April 22, Lee Health had 70 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals, a decrease of four from April 18. A total of 153 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including six on April 21.

The system has submitted a total of 8,494 specimens for testing, with two results pending as of April 22.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on April 21 collected 224 specimens and had a total of 871 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 was at 61 percent, with 8 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.