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Southwest Florida passes Day 100 with COVID-19

By Staff | Jun 19, 2020

More than one hundred days – that’s how long Southwest Florida residents have been dealing with COVID-19 in the community.

On June 17, local health officials once again reiterated to the community the importance of social distancing and face coverings amidst reports of the highest single-day cases the state has seen since the pandemic began. On June 18, the state reported over 3,000 new cases – another new record-high.

Lee Health President Dr. Larry Antonucci said he understands that some are growing tired of having to social distance and cover their face while in public, but that doing so will ensure hospitals will continue to be able to serve the needs of the community and will protect the most vulnerable citizens.

“Wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from others must become a normal part of how we live our lives for the foreseeable future,” he said. “If we embrace the new normal that COVID-19 has taught us to live with, we can ensure that hospitals will continue to have the capacity to save lives and provide safe compassionate care for all who need it.

“When we leave our homes we must keep a safe physical distance from others as much as possible, and wear a mask or face covering,” he continued. “According to the CDC, cloth masks help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and other airborne illnesses, by capturing infected respiratory droplets before they can spread to others. At this point, we must assume the coronavirus can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, and wearing a mask in public is one of the safest ways to prevent someone who may not even know they are spreading the virus.”

Antonucci has been discouraged with what he has seen in public, and said there is a direct correlation between the rise in cases and the community taking a more relaxed stance when it comes to guidelines.

“What I’ve been seeing is that this fatigue is leading to more people not social distancing and not wearing masks,” he said. “I see it when I go out to the store and restaurants, and I believe that this fatigue is a key contributor to the increasing number of cases in our community.”

All in all, Antonucci said there is no way to “sugar coat” that there has been a rise in cases in the community after weeks of seeing numbers flatten and, in some instances, decrease.

“Coronavirus is spreading in our community, and we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in our hospitals,” he said.

Antonucci knows the community wants to get back to normal, but being cautious when it comes to social distancing and coronavirus guidelines are paramount.

“As Florida moves through phase two, each and every one of us must do our part to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy and safe,” he said. “With everything we have all been through over the past 100 days, it is understandable that we are suffering from ‘coronavirus fatigue,’ but it is more important than ever to continue to follow the same safety precautions we have been advocating since the start of the pandemic.”

Antonucci said the county’s leading healthcare system has certainly learned a lot about the virus since the first cases popped up on Southwest Florida’s radar on March 6. He said Lee Health has learned lessons on how to operate during a pandemic, noting that “there is still more to learn.”