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Reopening not a return to ‘life as we knew it’

By Staff | Apr 23, 2020

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

Lee Health President and CEO, Dr. Larry Antonucci on Wednesday 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,” Antonucci 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 Tuesday, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted to re-open public parks and trails.

“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.

“Our 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.”

Officials urged residents that while the region and state as a whole will be searching to find some semblance of a prosperous economy to retur workers to their jobs, lessons learned over the past few months cannot be forgotten.

“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.

Field Hospital Demobilized

The Florida State Emergency Operations Center on Thursday announced the field hospital staged on Lee County Mosquito Control property is being demobilized.

“The field hospital was staged in Lee County in anticipation of potential need. Ultimately, Lee County has maintained available bed capacity,” an email from the Joint Information Center on COVID-19 for the State of Florida states.

While Lee County heath systems are in good shape when it comes to occupancy and supplies, many facilities around the state are feeling the strain of the outbreak.

State officials said they are ready to be there for communities overwhelmed with patients, now and in the future.

“The state continues to stand ready to support the county if there is a future need,” the email continued. “We are prepared to deploy field hospitals that are staged at other areas of the state to Lee County if needed, and we also have the ability to surge staff into existing facilities — opening up additional capacity in those hospitals.”

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 28,832 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 256 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday evening.

The death toll increased by 33 overnight, reported among Lee, Broward, Charlotte, Dade, Lake, Manatee, Martin, Palm Beach, Polk and St. Lucie counties.

A total of 297,286 individuals have been tested: 267,876 have tested negative, 578 tests were inconclusive and 1,301 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 4,509 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 960 deaths.

While Florida’s testing has increased over the past week, the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 10 percent. Of the 12,637 tests performed on April 22, there were 1,169 positive results, or 9 percent.

In Lee County, 823 individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday; 304 in Fort Myers, 164 in Cape Coral, 156 in Lehigh Acres, 77 in Bonita Springs, 30 in Estero, 31 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. Six 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 31 deaths in Lee County. All but one was between the ages 61 to 96, with 28 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 Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 74 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals, an increase of four from Wednesday. A total of 183 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including five on Wednesday.

The system has submitted a total of 8,823 specimens for testing with two results pending as of Thursday afternoon.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on Wednesday collected 255 specimens and had a total of 1,065 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 63 percent with 7.6 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj