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Lee Health to begin anti-body testing

By Staff | May 13, 2020

Antibody testing in Lee Health facilities will begin as soon as this week, health officials said Wednesday.

President and CEO of Lee Health Dr. Larry Antonucci said serology testing, or the blood test that shows the presence of coronavirus antibodies in a patient’s blood stream, could be available before the week is out.

“While this testing is helpful to know how the virus has spread in our area, it is important to point out that the presence of antibodies does not necessarily mean the patient is immune from the coronavirus,” he said. “More research still needs to be done to know how the presence of antibodies impacts overall immunity. Tests will be performed in physician offices and in our blood draw stations at the Lee Health lab, and anyone who is curious if they’ve been exposed to the virus can request a test from their doctor.”

* Virtual visits will no longer be free beginning May 18

“Over the last few months we have provided thousands of free Lee TeleHealth visits to support our community during a global pandemic. We made this service free because it was the right thing to do, and it allowed patients to be virtually evaluated for symptoms of COVID-19 without having to come into a brick and mortar medical facility,” said Antonucci.

On May 18, the service will return to the regular price of $49.

“Lee TeleHealth remains a convenient alternative to urgent care or a walk-in clinic for ailments such as rashes, fever, pink eye, cold-like symptoms and many other non-emergency medical conditions,” Antonucci said.

* Hurricane season nearly upon us

Hurricane season, while stressful for all across the county, could play an even more damaging role this year when it comes to getting prepared during a pandemic.

Antonucci said residents should begin to prepare for the upcoming season and that a threat of a major storm creates even more of a challenge for Lee Health and the community.

“I know it sounds daunting to prep for hurricane season as we are still dealing with a pandemic, but the time to plan is now,” Antonucci said. “Every year we hope a Charley or Irma passes us by, but in the meantime, we must always plan for when the next big one hits.”

He reminded residents that hospitals are not shelters and to make sure you know where to go in case of a weather emergency.

Antonucci also said Lee Health is ready to treat patients in the event of a catastrophic storm.

“At Lee Health we are prepared to care for all of those who need it during a storm, and earlier this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration certified all of our hospitals as “Storm Ready.” This certification means that Lee Health has met a rigorous set of standards that are designed to educate our community on how to stay safe in a severe weather event,” he said. “These standards include a 24-hour operations center, promotion of public readiness and creating a hazardous weather plan that trains weather spotters and holds emergency exercises.”

* By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there were 43,210 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 808 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning.

More than 17,700 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, May 13.

The death toll increased by 48 from 11 a.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Friday, reported among Lee, Calhoun, Charlotte, Collier, Dade, Hendry, Hillsborough, Manatee, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, St. Johns and Suwannee counties.

A total of 609,574 individuals have been tested: 565,627 have tested negative, 737 tests were inconclusive and 1,228 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 7,749 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 1,875 deaths.

While Florida’s testing has increased over the past week, the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 7 percent. On May 13, 4.7 percent of new cases tested positive.

In Lee County, 1,350 individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday; 549 in Fort Myers, 253 in Cape Coral, 277 in Lehigh Acres, 99 in Bonita Springs, 54 in Estero, 40 in North Fort Myers, 11 in Sanibel, 11 on Fort Myers Beach, six in Alva, one on Captiva and one in Boca Grande. One case was not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 100-year-old man. 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 73 deaths in Lee County, all but three between the ages 61 to 96. The exceptions were a 39-year-old man who died March 25, a 52-year-old man who died April 30 and a 57-year-old woman who died May 12.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 79 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals, an increase of four from their last update Wednesday afternoon. A total of 353 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including one on Wednesday.

The system has submitted a total of 13,674 specimens for testing, with only three results currently pending.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on Wednesday collected 151 specimens and had 1,135 virtual visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChartVideo.

Lee Health has 250 employees quarantined at home, up nine from Wednesday. Thirty-one employees currently are positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work, the same reported on Wednesday.

Current bed capacity is at 71 percent, with 7 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

As of Thursday, 76 percent of ventilators are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

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.

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.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj