A 'grim threat' to region: Lee Health COVID hospitalizations nearing 600, cases still increasing in Lee and Collier
COVID-19 hospitalizations at Lee Health reached 598 on Thursday, another all-time high in cases that hospital system administrators said reflected the "grim threat to our community." Six of them are children.
Intensive care units within Lee Health's four primary hospitals are now at 96% capacity. The entire health system is also at 96% of staffed bed capacity.
Larry Antonucci, the hospital system's president and CEO, said he worries cases will continue to go up for weeks, or longer. As a result, the organization continues to hire more nurses and support staff and offer bonuses to employees volunteering for extra shifts, Antonucci said.
Lee Health may eventually take more extreme measures, such as canceling all elective procedures, doubling up patients in now-private rooms and/or using alternate sites to house patients, he said. Lee Health has already canceled elective procedures requiring overnight stays.
"Right now our (patient) census is a little over 1,500. If we start pushing past 1,600 we are going to have to start looking at some alternate sites for care, whether it's auditoriums or cafeterias," Antonucci said. "In addition, we would have to suspend elective surgeries completely and use those areas. In other words, pre-op areas, post-anesthesia recovery areas — these could all be set up as clinical spaces."
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Lee Health's case count is up from Wednesday's 577 total and follows 95 admissions and 59 discharges over the previous 24 hours.
Ninety-three COVID-19 patients are in ICUs, 62 of whom are on ventilators.
Thursday's COVID-19 patient count was yet another all-time high. Antonucci repeated his calls for the region's residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
As of Thursday, 54.6% of Lee County residents over the age of 12 had been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factoring in the county's entire population, the rate is just over 48%.
Lee County's population is about 761,000.
"That's a lot of people that can get sick," Antonucci said. "I think that's what's worrisome and why we're doing everything we can to encourage everyone who's eligible to get vaccinated. That's really the only way we're going to slow this down."
A total of 810 Lee Health patients have died since the start of the pandemic, including 12 on Wednesday.
NCH Healthcare System, which operates Collier County's largest hospitals, reported treating 213 COVID-19 patients, up from 197 on Wednesday. Four are children.
Forty-eight of its patients are receiving critical care treatment. Of those, 34 are on ventilators.
And, as has been the case all week, NCH ICUs are over capacity — on Thursday it was 136% of capacity, up from 125% of capacity, the hospital system reported.
Physicians Regional Healthcare System reported on Thursday that it's treating 120 COVID-19 patients, up from 118 on Wednesday.
The Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Medical Association announced Thursday they were releasing a series of public service announcements in English and Spanish urging Floridians to get the shots.
“The overwhelming majority of the people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida are unvaccinated,” Mary C. Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association in a prepared statement. “The delta variant is ravaging younger and unvaccinated people. If you don’t think this could happen to you, listen to one of our nurses sadly recall the passing of a young woman in her 30s who left behind a husband and three young children.”
Frank Gluck is a watchdog reporter with The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Connect with him at email@example.com or on Twitter: @FrankGluck