Lee Health reports sharp increase to 210 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Total COVID-19 patients in Lee Health hospitals. (CREDIT: WINK News)

In a matter of hours, Lee Health admitted 11 more COVID-19 patients at their hospitals, bringing the current total to 210 isolated patients.

Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci, says this is an increase of 600% in just a couple of weeks.

It’s also the highest number since July 2020.

The hospital system also saw a sharp increase of patients on Tuesday when 30 people were admitted and tested positive for the virus.

Based on early data Wednesday morning, the hospital system reports 68% of its ventilators and 11% of its ICU rooms are available. Sixteen COVID-19 patients are on ventilators and 37 are in the intensive care unit. These numbers do not include those admitted on Wednesday.

A little over a year ago John Loeber, a comedian from Fort Myers, was battling COVID-19 in the hospital.

“It is emotional when you look at the calendar and you see Facebook memories and you see what my life was like a year ago and that just makes me so much thankful for the amazing healthcare workers,” Loeber said.

Now that COVID-19 is on the rise, Loeber is on the alert.

So is Antonucci.

“The challenges we are facing in our emergency department place a larger spotlight on the importance of vaccinations,” Antonucci said during a call with media members on Wednesday. “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 intensive care unit.”

Jane Cox, a nurse practitioner in Southwest Florida, is also alarmed.

“It’s very distressing as a health professional because we thought it was we would beat it and now there’s a surge again of the Delta variant,” Cox said.

As cases continue to rise, both Cox and Loeber have a message.

“If you’ve been able to not get it so far in a year and a half then you’re probably doing some right things or you’re extremely lucky but I wouldn’t let your guard down. I would continue to talk to your doctors about vaccines, maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Loeber said.

Cox said for the sakes of people’s families, grandchildren and grandparents, “get a vaccination.

“Even if you have reservations talk it over with your healthcare professional before you make a final decision. Now is the perfect time to do that,” Cox said.

Lee Health is encouraging everyone to follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask indoors even if they’ve been vaccinated.

If you need COVID-19 testing, you can to any of their walk-in clinics or urgent care centers. Testing can also be done at area pharmacies.

A message from Lee Health President & CEO, Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA:

In the last month, the number of COVID-19 patients we are caring for in our hospitals has
jumped from around 30 to 199 this morning, and now to 210 this afternoon. That is an increase of 600% in just a couple of weeks. This concerning 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. This week, patients in the ED are experiencing longer wait times than normal for this time of year as the coronavirus spreads through our community and the demand for COVID testing has skyrocketed.

If you do visit a Lee Health emergency room we have the resources to care for you today, but I want to remind our community of better sources for COVID-19 testing. We encourage those who need a COVID test to go to our 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. If you are sick enough to need emergency care we will be here for you, but these alternate testing locations will save you from a long wait and help us quickly serve all of our emergency department patients. If you do need to come to the ED, please bear with us. You can expect a longer wait, and I am appreciative of your patience.

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.


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