Lee Health responds to rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Lee Health COVID hospitalizations
Credit: WINK News

Florida is leading the nation in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. While Gov. Ron DeSantis said he expects these numbers to drop within the next few weeks, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a rapid rise.

More than 11,000 people are in hospitals across the state with COVID-19, a new record high in Florida.

Lee Health CEO and President Dr. Larry Antonucci is responding amid the rising COVID-19 rates. Lee Health reported 321 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals Tuesday. That number is up from 298 just a day ago and up from 160 a week ago.

Antonucci said he’s afraid numbers will continue to rise and is also worried that many new patients are young and unvaccinated.

Last July, COVID-19 cases in Lee Health hospitals peaked at 372. We’re currently at 321 and that number is growing. This is signifying the second wave underway across Lee Health hospitals.

“But the mortality is different. Now we’ve got a better way to treat patients, patients tend to be younger now. So they have fewer CO illnesses, other illnesses,” Antonucci said. “So the survival rate is better but the numbers are still there and the numbers are showing these patients are sick enough to be in the hospital in the ICU.”

Antonucci said it’s dangerous to think that the mortality rate will not spike again. Deaths are climbing as hospitalizations skyrocket.

“Well, it’s showing that this virus continues to spread in our community, primarily in the unvaccinated community. If you look at the patients that are in the hospital right now, about 90% are unvaccinated. And certainly, none of the patients in the ICU have been vaccinated,” Antonucci said.

On Tuesday, Lee Health ICUs rose to 95% capacity. The concern is that hospitalizations will continue to rise. “We’re not seeing any evidence of a plateau at this point. The slope of the curve is very steep, and so we’re adding 40 to 50 COVID-19 patients a day,” Antonucci said.

Lee Health is not ready to mandate that everyone who works in the hospital get the vaccine. A survey of staff about a month ago showed that 75% of staff are vaccinated or plan to get their shots.

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