There’s no denying it. COVID remains a serious threat to many Americans. And as Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antanucci points out Southwest Florida is not immune to what the entire country is facing from a resurgence of the virus.
In the last month, the number of COVID-19 patients in Lee Health hospitals has jumped from around 30 to 217 on Thursday. That’s an increase of more than 600% in just a few weeks. Antanucci says this trend is both “threatening the well-being of Southwest Florida and beginning to put a strain on Lee Health’s resources, specifically in the emergency department.”
Patients in the Emergency Department are experiencing longer wait times than normal for this time of year as the coronavirus spreads through the community and the demand for COVID testing has skyrocketed.
Antanucci wants to remind everyone that if you need a COVID-19 test there are several other ways to get one other than going to the hospital, including Lee Convenient Care clinics or any walk-in urgent care center in our area. Retailers like CVS and Walgreens also offer same-day appointments for tests, and the Florida Department of Health operates a drive-thru location in Ft. Myers.
Antanucci also had a message for those not yet vaccinated: “The challenges we are facing in our emergency departments place a larger spotlight on the importance of vaccination. Last week, 89% of our hospitalized COVID-19 patients were not vaccinated, and we have not had a single vaccinated patient require care in the ICU. The vaccine is working as it is supposed to, it does not guarantee you won’t get sick, but if you do get sick your risk of severe illness is dramatically decreased and odds are you will not be hospitalized.
In addition to the decreased risk of severe illness, the more people who are vaccinated, the less opportunity there is for the coronavirus to spread across our community. Mutations like the current Delta variant spread more quickly, and vaccination helps to lower the risk. This virus is affecting people of all ages and levels of health, and whether you come into our clinic at Gulf Coast Medical Center or get vaccinated at one of our area’s many local retailers, it is the best thing you can do to help keep yourself and others safe.
Southwest Florida is currently a hotspot for COVID-19, and the CDC has updated their masking recommendations to include wearing masks indoors when out in public, even if you are fully vaccinated. Lee Health supports these recommendations, as the coronavirus ravages our community. Wearing a mask is one easy step you can take to add an extra layer of protection on top of the vaccine. Our goal is to keep people out of the hospital, and I believe following this recommendation is an effective way to do that. As a reminder, masks are required in all Lee Health facilities, and we ask that you bring your own.
I know we have been at this a long time, and just a month ago there was a lot of reason for optimism that we have turned a corner, but the unfortunate truth is that we are still very much in the thick of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. By getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, everyone in our area can help save lives, keep people out of the hospital and conserve community resources to make sure we continue to be able to effectively care for all patients who need us in Southwest Florida.”