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COVID-19 hospitalizations triple in one month

By Staff | Jul 3, 2020

As the Independence Day holiday weekend begins, local health care officials spoke of the worrisome number of COVID-19 patients in their care and urged the public to take proper precautions when in public areas.

“We are seeing a trend in our hospitals that has me very concerned,” said President and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci, Friday afternoon. “Between our hospitals and skilled nursing units we are treating 327 COVID-19 patients. Just a month ago we were treating around 100 COVID patients each day. In one month we went from 100 to over 300, triple the number of hospitalizations.

“As we enter this holiday weekend, and we celebrate with friends and family, we must take the threat of this virus extremely seriously.

“I am here to tell you today that we are at risk of hitting critical mass, and if, as a community, we do not take action we will run out of room in our hospitals. And that could happen as soon as the end of this month.”

Antonucci said actions taken by residents in the early stages of the pandemic were successful in mitigating the virus, but that since the state reopened many residents are taking a relaxed stance on the virus and disregarding guidelines. Cases are rising and hospitals in the area are in danger of not meeting the needs of the community.

“We know how to stop this spread, we have done it before, and I am asking for our community to help us do it again,” Antonucci said. “At our current rate, Lee Health hospitals will be completely full by the end of the month. We must act now to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Three months ago, everyone joined in a shared goal of flattening the curve, which was temporarily accomplished. We stayed at home, we practiced hand hygiene and we began wearing masks. The curve is no longer flat. Instead we have a spike in cases and the spike is growing fast.”

Antonucci said the time for action is now — that wearing a mask is scientifically proven to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Now is the time to take action. No one person, law or mandate can stop the spread of the virus,” he said. “The actions of each and every one of us can ensure the safety of our families, our neighbors and strangers alike. Limit leaving your home unless necessary, and when you do leave, wear a mask, keep a safe physical distance from others and make sure you wash your hands or use sanitizing gel.

“Wearing a mask and distancing can be inconvenient and at times uncomfortable, but the science is clear, these actions help save lives by slowing the spread of the virus.”

Anonucci said while currently they have the means to meet the needs of the community, things could change drastically if residents are not vigilant in their efforts to protect themselves and others.

“I can tell you today that we still have the necessary capacity to meet every need of our community, but I can’t promise that will still be true a month from now if we don’t take action now,” he said “Every one single person in Southwest Florida has the ability to help reverse this surge and ensure every patient needing health care has access to it.

“I love Southwest Florida, and I believe in Southwest Florida. We will get through this together and we will grow stronger as a community together, but it is not possible without our entire region buying-in for the benefit of the friends and neighbors.

“I wish everyone a happy Fourth of July, and ask you to please take action this holiday weekend and beyond to protect yourselves and your neighbors from this devastating virus so that Lee Health may continue to provide our community with the same exceptional care they have become accustomed to over the last 100 years.”

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Friday, there are 178,594 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 9,488 since FDOH’s last update Thursday morning.

This is the third highest single-day report of cases from the state, following yesterday’s highest single-day increase of 10,109.

More than 67,091 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, July 1. Of those reported tests, 14.91 percent tested positive. Since June 21, positivity rates have increased from 7.74 percent up to 15.99 percent.

On Friday, June 26, 78,318 tests were processed by the state — the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

The death toll increased by 67 from 11 a.m. Thursday to 11 a.m. Friday, reported among Lee, Brevard, Broward, Dade, Escambia, Hendry, Hillsborough, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Seminole counties.

A total of 2,083,056 individuals have been tested: 1,902,766 have tested negative, 1,696 tests were inconclusive and 1,717 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 15,491 (+341) have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 3,785 deaths.

The age groups of Florida residents that have yielded the most positive test results are 25-34 years old (21%), followed by 35-44(16%), 15-24(16%) and 45-54 (15%).

The highest hospitalization rate is found in patients 65-74 (19%), 75-84 (18%) and 55-64 (17%) years old.

In Lee County, 5,869 (+799) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Friday; 2,852 in Fort Myers (+164), 1,335 in Cape Coral (+213), 1,390 in Lehigh Acres (+79), 412 in Bonita Springs (+35), 213 in North Fort Myers (+12), 145 in Estero (+10), 34 on Fort Myers Beach (+2), 17 in Sanibel (+0), 26 in Alva (+3), 11 in Bokeelia (+3), six on Matlacha (+1), four in Saint James City (+0), three in Tice (+0), two in Miromar Lakes (+0), two in Boca Grande (+0), two on Captiva (+0), two in San Carlos Park (+0) and one in Buckingham (+0).

Eighty-eight cases were not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 101-year-old. 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 162 deaths (+1) in Lee County and a total of 621 hospitalizations; 118 deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Friday, Lee Health had 285 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals. A total of 927 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including 84 on Thursday. Lee Health had 258 patients isolated in hospitals on Thursday.

The system has submitted a total of 29,989 specimens for testing, with 1,110 results currently pending.

Lee Health’s mobile collection sites on Thursday collected 499 specimens.

Bed capacity as of Friday is at 83 percent, with 22.2 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

As of Friday, 70 percent of ventilators and 11 percent of ICU rooms 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 urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home so as to limit exposure. All others are urged to observe social distancing and to wear a mask for all public interactions.

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