3 To Know: Cape bridge plan, red tide bloom

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it's not only, its isn't wide enough.   A wider Cape Coral Bridge is planned to link south Lee County and Cape Coral. County commissioners gave the go-ahead Tuesday

1. Lee County moves ahead with Cape bridge plan

Lee County Commissioners are backing plans to rebuild the aging spans that make up the Cape Coral Bridge over the Caloosahatchee River, a project that would increase traffic capacity on the frequently jammed roadway.

The new Cape Coral bridge will have two spans of three vehicle lanes each – an expansion from the current two lanes in each direction, bike lanes in each direction, two break-down lanes, one in each direction.

“The reason we are replacing these bridges is they have met their useful life,” said county Transportation Director Randy Cerchie at a commission workshop Monday.

“Each year, I take a look at the bridge maintenance program we have $130,000 to $150,000, $180,000 the next year, $200,000 the next year to maintain these bridges.”

The original Cape Coral Bridge opened in 1964; the additional span was built in 1989. – Bill Smith/Staff

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2. Suicide rates increase after 2 years of decline, with disparities widening

Suicide rates increased and disparities widened in 2021, returning to pre-pandemic rates after two years of decline, a federal analysis found.

Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis found the rate of suicide among American Indian and Alaska Native people increased 26% from 2018, followed by Black and Hispanic people, who saw 19.2% and 6.8% increases respectively.

The data raises concerns over access to care and pandemic struggles, CDC researchers said.

The CDC analysis released Thursday compared rates from 2018 to 2021. 

In 2021, 48,183 people died by suicide.

That year, the overall age-adjusted suicide rate rose to 14.1 deaths for every 100,000 people, returning to the peak seen in 2018 of 14.2, according to the report. In 2020, the rate was 13.5 per 100,000. 

American Indian and Alaska Native people had the highest age-adjusted suicide rates at 28.1 per 100,000 — up from 22.3 in 2018. Suicide rates among Black people increased from 7.3 to 8.7 per 100,000. Among Hispanic people, the rate increased from 7.4 to 7.9 per 100,000. Nada Hassanein/USA Today

3. Health officials warn public about toxic red tide bloom in Southwest Florida

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued another red tide alert regarding high levels of toxic Karenia brevis at and around Sanibel Island.

Reports from local scientists show counts off Sanibel being as high as 20 million cells per liter, and fish kills can start when levels are between 10,000 and 100,000 cells per liter, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Symptoms from breathing red tide usually include coughing, sneezing and watery eyes,” a DOH press release says. “For most people, symptoms are temporary and typically go away when the person leaves the area. Wearing a particle filter mask may lessen the effects, and over-the-counter antihistamines decrease symptoms. People with chronic respiratory problems, like asthma, should avoid areas with active red tides. People with symptoms that persist should seek medical attention.”

A similar public warning was issued on Jan. 31.

Lower but still significant numbers were found in the Bonita Beach area, with counts ranging between 10,000 and 100,000 cells per liter. – Chad Gillis/Staff