Lee Health says coronavirus cases could double in Lee County by next week

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange) — also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19 —isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (green) cultured in the lab. (NIAID-RML)

Lee Health’s top doctor already issued a warning that COVID-19 cases in Lee County could double by next week. There are currently 275 positive cases with 10 deaths in the county. We’ve also learned of over 1,200 new cases statewide. That includes more than 40 new deaths.

We looked at what Lee Health’s declaration means moving forward Thursday after a massive spike in positive tests over the last 24 hours.

Lee Health officials are saying, if this trend continues in Lee County, it will surpass 500 positive COVID-19 cases by next week.

“It could be that we’re testing more, so we’re having a greater number of cases,” said Dr. Robert Hawkes, the director of the FGCU physician assistant program.

But one fact stands out. Lee County is in the top six in Florida for the total number of cases, and it has one of the highest rates of death for those testing positive.

“They may be traveling more,” Hawkes said. “That may be impacting some of the numbers. And, certainly, we tend to have an older population in Southwest Florida.

Most who’ve died in the area are in their sixties and older, but Hawkes says the sample size is small.

“Nationally, the death rate is a little over 1%, 1, 1.2, 1.5%,” Hawkes said. “So 4% seems high, but, again, our sample size is really low.”

The trends are also showing younger people testing positive. That includes 39-year-old Conrad Buchanan of Lee County, who died from coronavirus last week.

“You guys have to take this seriously,” said Nicole Buchanan, Conrad’s wife. “I would hate for anybody, anyone else’s family or children, to have to go through what we’ve gone through.”

Buchanan’s wife just found out she tested positive. They’re now waiting on the results for their young daughter.

“I need everybody to know that this is serious,” Buchanan said. “People think that it’s just going to affect people with underlying health issues, old people. But it doesn’t.”

Lee Health opened its expansion at Gulf Coast Medical Center in south Fort Myers Thursday. That opens up more than 200 beds for the dozens of COVID-19 patients it’s already caring for.

Hawkes shared a similar message to Nicole’s.

“Please don’t ignore [COVID-19]” Hawkes said. “This is a very significant virus. And we all need to do the best we can to protect ourselves.”

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