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COVID-19 hospitalizations triple in one month

By Staff | Jul 6, 2020

As the Independence Day holiday weekend approached last week, 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,” Lee Health President Dr. Larry Antonucci said on July 3. “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,” he said. “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,” he added.

Antonucci 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,” Antonucci said. “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.”