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Lee Health: Stay vigilant

By Staff | May 1, 2020

As Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Phase One” plan to reopen Florida plays-out across the state, local health officials will continue with their in-place hospital and nursing home visitor restrictions.

“I understand this creates a hardship for many families, but this remains necessary to keep their loved ones safe during this pandemic,” Lee Health President Dr. Larry Antonucci said on April 30. “Our caring nurses have gone above and beyond to utilize technology to allow family members to virtually visit their family members, and we look forward to welcoming visitors back into the facilities as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Antonucci said phase one will allow hospitals to resume elective surgeries as of May 4, though Lee Health is working on its plan to resume the services and will announce the date when it is determined.

As things reopen, officials say to stay vigilant.

With a majority of county beaches and parks reopening throughout Southwest Florida, health officials tell the public this does not mean the threat of the coronavirus is gone. Phase one also will allow for restaurants to again offer dine-in, and outside, seating while meeting physical distancing and sterilization standards. Floridians, waiting with bated breath for the reopening of the state and life as we used to know it, should remain vigilant in practicing social distancing and hygiene habits.

“These developments are exciting for our community, which has largely been staying safely at home for over a month, but I continue to stress the importance of continuing to practice distancing, masking and proper hand hygiene while we enjoy the expanded recreational options that come with phase one,” Antonucci said.

He also applauded the public for its efforts thus far to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Lee County, which has a population of more than 700,000 residents.

“Getting to this point was made possible because of the community-wide effort in fighting coronavirus. Our collective physical distancing, masking and hygiene habits are the No. 1 reason we avoided the exponential growth that we feared would happen in Southwest Florida,” Antonucci said. “We are all excited to return to some degree of normalcy, and it is likely in the coming days some types of local businesses will begin to reopen, giving our community further options to get out of their homes for a few hours. While these are encouraging developments, the message remains the same. The opening beaches, parks and businesses does not mean the threat is over and, when going out in public, we must continue to practice the same preventative measures that have kept our community as safe as possible. We must continue to physically distance ourselves from others, wear masks in public and practice good hand hygiene habits.”

Antonucci said he cannot foresee as to when these precautions would be lessened, but said it will still be “months, and maybe even more than a year,” until people will able to be shoulder-to-shoulder and interacting as they once were before this global pandemic.

He advised all businesses, schools and workplaces to follow guidelines issued by the CDC and EPA on how to properly disinfect all public areas, which will be vital to keeping guests safe. Antonucci said local leaders and health care experts will continue to monitor the impact of the virus on the community as it opens in phases and when it is appropriate to move forward.

“Reopening requires us to continue to move forward together, now is not the time for complacency, as not taking safety precautions when out in public could mean restrictions will have to be put back in place,” he said.

Officials said triage tents may start being removed for hospital emergency departments, though all patients will continue to be screened for respiratory illness and separated from others if they display signs of COVID-19.

“The fight is not over, but we are winning, and I look forward toward slowly enabling our community to enjoy everything Southwest Florida has to offer,” Antonucci said.