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Lee Health: More COVID-19 positives not necessarily indicative of coronavirus comeback

By Staff | May 12, 2020

As testing for COVID-19 becomes more readily available to the public, local health officials said on May 6 it could result in an increase of positive tests in the area and throughout the state.

More testing equals more potential positive results for some who may not show symptoms of the virus but still carry it and could potentially pass along to others.

This no-appointment-necessary testing can help isolate those who will not see dramatic health deterioration if positive and give the state a better idea of how many cases there actually are.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, as part of an executive order, launched sites across the state to make testing more available, including the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers.

“Don’t be surprised if we see a spike in the number of cases in the coming weeks. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the virus is making a comeback,” Lee Heath President Dr. Larry Antonucci said. “Testing is becoming more prevalent and, with the state’s opening of collection sites in Southwest Florida, our community has more access to testing than ever. These will allow us to better understand the spread of the virus in our community, but remember that more tests do not automatically mean more spread of the virus.”

As Antonucci said, an increase in positive cases may not necessarily mean the virus is spreading at a more rapid pace. He still cautioned the public to remain vigilant about hygiene and social distancing.

“I want to remind our community that while we are winning the fight against the coronavirus, now is not the time for complacency as the state works its way through its reopening plan,” Antonucci said. “It is OK to get out of your house and enjoy a meal at a restaurant or a stroll on the beach, but remember to keep a six feet physical distance from others, wear a mask over your nose and mouth and practice good hand hygiene. These are the only sure ways we can stay safe until this pandemic is over.”

In addition, Lee Health facilities were able to resume some elective surgeries two weeks ago as part of the phase one reopening of the state. These are “non-emergency” procedures to improve a patient’s quality of life, such as knee and hip replacements, or even removing a cancerous tumor or an internal organ such as a gallbladder.

Antonucci reported on May 6 that Lee Health was operating at about 20 to 25 percent of its normal elective surgery volume.

“We are taking a cautious approach to phasing in services, and as each phase begins, it is fair to expect an increase in admissions as we serve more non-COVID-19 patients,” he said. “I want to assure the community that we have the capacity to provide access to safe health care for every person who needs it, and an increase in admissions is not something to be alarmed about, but a metric that shows things are slowly returning to normal.

“I want to thank our community for understanding why we had to suspend these procedures and their patience as we reschedule their surgeries,” he added. “Now that elective surgeries are once again being performed, I also understand their frustration in having to wait a little longer as we phase them back in. While we all want to be back to 100 percent as soon as possible, we must take every precaution to track our personal protective equipment and follow our phasing in plan for the safety of our entire community. As I said from the beginning of this pandemic, we are all in this together and I am so thankful for the support Southwest Florida has shown us during this trying time.”