Peak of COVID-19 in Florida may arrive sooner than expected

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With more than 14,000 cases of COVID-19 in Florida and 283 reported deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, state health officials say the state could see a peak sooner rather than later.

All eyes are on April 21, the newly projected peak for the coronavirus in Florida – and Lee County.

But don’t expect that to be the case in Collier County.

“DOH officials share that the surge in Collier County may lag behind the state by a week or two,” said Paul Hiltz, CEO of NCH Healthcare System.

Hiltz said his staff is currently treating 27 COVID-19 patients and is gearing up to handle the expected spike.

“We continue to prepare so that our supplies, ventilators, and staffing can meet the needs appropriately,” he said.

Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci believes Lee County is flattening the curve because people are social distancing and staying at home.

“Over the past several days, we have seen the growth rate of COVID-19 in the state and locally become linear rather than exponential, which is a good thing,” Antonucci said.

It’s a trend Florida Gulf Coast University professor Robert Hawks sees when he looks at the numbers.

Why might we see the peak earlier?

“By people staying home, by people washing their hands and using hand sanitizer and implementing social distancing, I think this is one of the most important reasons to show that the peak is going to come early,” said Hawkes, who is director of FGCU’s physician assistant program.

But, he warns this is still a projection and the worst is still to come. 

“Things are very fluid, they can change,” he said.

“It could easily go back the other way if people start changing habits and getting back out to large groups.”

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