Charlotte County has highest COVID-19 death rate in state, population age likely major factor

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

More Floridians have died from the coronavirus than the number of fans who could fill all the seats at Hammond Field where the Minnesota Twins play their spring training games.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 10,049 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, and the virus has become the deadliest in Charlotte County. Over 4% of people who have contracted COVID-19 in the county have died.

Joe Pepe with the Florida Department of Health told us the age of those in Charlotte County who have contracted COVID-19 might be the key to why the county has the highest death rate of residents in Florida.

“A significant percentage of our adults who are impacted with COVID over the age of 85 had do-not-resuscitate orders,” Pepe explained.

And the impact on Charlotte County has been of the utmost significance to Mary Ann Wehrle.

“Heaven got a little louder on May 9, so that’s what his prayer card says,” Wehrle said.

Wehrle wasn’t prepared for her 49th wedding anniversary with her husband, Charles “Skip” Wehrle, to be their last.

“He was barbecuing, and he didn’t even get to finish it,” Wehrle said. “He couldn’t talk because he was shaking, and I said well, ‘Let’s get you to the hospital.’”

Skip died May 9 after four weeks on a ventilator at Englewood Community Hospital. The Vietnam vet dealt with cancer and some other health issues, but COVID-19 took his life.

“It took me 48 and a half years to learn to live with him, and now it will take me 48 and a half years to learn to live without him,” Wehrle said.

Charlotte County has the second oldest county population in the state and third in the nation. Like Skip, 95 of the 106 people who died in Charlotte County were over the age of 65. More than half of the county’s deaths are linked to long-term care facilities.

A bulk of those deaths came at the beginning of the pandemic, with the exception of a sudden spike in August.

Skip Wehrle’s funeral service was small due to safety protocols. Mary Ann hopes to have a larger one soon if circumstances allow for it. She wants her veteran husband to have a ceremony complete with an honor guard at Sarasota National Cemetery.

Wehrle pleads for others to take precautions to avoid becoming a statistic.

“It’s not something to laugh about,” Wehrle said. “It’s not something to blow off. It’s a serious situation.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.