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Health leaders ask for mandatory masks in Lee

By Staff | Jul 28, 2020

Members of the Lee Health Facility Medical Executive Committee has sent a letter to Lee County Board of County Commissioners Chair Brian Hamman, requesting a countywide mask mandate “in public places and inside businesses where social distancing is not always feasible.”

The letter sent by committee presidents of Lee Memorial, Health Park Medical Center, Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, Golisano Children’s Hospital and Physician Leadership Council last Friday calls for Lee to join other counties throughout the state to regulate the wearing of a mask or face covering.

“We request you mandate masks be worn in public places and inside businesses where social distancing is not always feasible,” states the July 24 letter to Hamman and the four additional commissioners. “Masks protect not just the wearer but everyone around them. We believe this is crucial to public health, will save lives, and is a necessary step to maintain our current phase of reopening and continued economic recovery.”

The committee called mask wearing a “crucial” part of the “Three W’s to ward off COVID-19” — that include wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance. They also pointed to many national retail chains that have mandated such requirements in their stores.

“Understanding that social distancing is not always guaranteed, wearing a mask becomes essential in public settings,” wrote the committee. “As you are likely aware, multiple retailers and grocers including Aldi, Costco, CVS, Home Depot, Lowes, Winn Dixie, Publix, Walmart, Starbucks, and Target are mandating masks to protect both their employees and customers. They have emerged as leaders on a national stage.”

Health officials in the letter obtained by The Breeze cited CDC information that regards Florida as one of the “nation’s leaders in newly-diagnosed COVID cases” and identified Lee County as a “hot spot.”

“All of our Intensive Care Units are either at or near full capacity,” the letter continued. “The rapid rise in cases is placing strains on our system’s supplies, staffing, and space to provide care not only to those with COVID but to all those who depend on Lee Health for care. It is time that we join the multiple other counties in Florida such as Collier, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, St. Lucie, and Seminole that have acknowledged the social responsibility which necessitates mandating masks during this public health crisis.”

The Breeze reached out to Hamman via email Tuesday to verify he had received the letter.

Hamman said he had and wanted to thank Lee Health employees for their service to the county and their partnership through the pandemic.

When it came to implementing a mask mandate in the county, Hamman said he has trust in education and believes residents will do the right thing.

“Lee County’s policy of educating people about why they should choose to wear a mask and follow the precautions to slow the spread of Covid-19, is working just as well as a mask mandate,” Hamman said via email. “I’m extremely proud of our residents. They are displaying incredible personal responsibility. When we get good information, we will make good choices.”

Lee Health Virtual Town Hall Aug. 6

According to a release, Lee Health will host a Virtual Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 12:30 p.m. The Facebook Live event is open to the public and will feature a discussion with Lee Health leaders about the facts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as include an interactive question and answer session.

“As health care leaders, we want to educate citizens about the facts related to COVID-19 and dispel rumors and misinformation associated with the coronavirus,” said Antonucci in the release. “We have learned a lot during this pandemic. We look forward to the opportunity to address the Southwest Florida community and provide them with the information they need to know to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

The virtual event will be moderated by Lindsey Morton, Senior Creative Services Project Manager at Lee Health, and will feature Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA, President & CEO at Lee Health and Alex Daneshmand, D.O., MBA, FAAP, Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer at Lee Health.

The event is free and no subscription or login is required. For those without access to Facebook, the event will also be live streamed at LeeHealth.org.

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, there are 441,977 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 9,230 since FDOH’s last update Monday morning.

More than 90,200 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Monday, July 27. Of those reported tests, 11.69 percent tested positive. Over the last two weeks, the average positivity rate has been 12.33.

The state saw its highly daily percentage of positive patients July 8, when 18.50 percent of tests reported were positive among 51,686 tests.

The death toll increased by a record 191 deaths (186 Florida resident, 5 non-Florida resident) from yesterday’s update, reported among Lee, Bay, Brevard, Collier, Dade, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Suwannee, Volusia and Wakulla counties.

The state previously reported its largest death toll of 173 on July 23. This does not mean all of the deaths occurred or were reported by local health care facilities on that day but that they were released in the state report that day after reports were processed.

A total of 3,485,141 individuals have been tested: 3,038,322 have tested negative, 4,842 tests were inconclusive and 3,017 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 24,917 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state. There have been 6,240 deaths.

The age groups of Florida residents that have yielded the most positive test results are 25-34 years old (20%), followed by 35-44(16%), 45-54 (16%) and 15-24(15%).

The highest hospitalization rate is found in patients 65-74 (19%), 75-84 (18%) and 55-64 (18%) years old.

In Lee County, 14,716 (+176) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Tuesday; 6,036 in Fort Myers (+58), 3,290 in Cape Coral (+39), 2,906 in Lehigh Acres (+34), 973 in Bonita Springs (+11), 505 in North Fort Myers (+19), 315 in Estero (+5), 86 in Alva (+1), 60 on Fort Myers Beach (+1), 34 in Sanibel (+1), 26 in Bokeelia (+1), 18 in Saint James City (+0), 12 in Tice (+1), eight on Matlacha (+0), three on Captiva (+0), three in Buckingham (+0); three in Boca Grande (+0), three in Miromar Lakes (+0), two in San Carlos Park (+0), one in South Fort Myers(+0) and one in Immokalee (+0);155 cases were not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 101-year-old. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 272 (+13) deaths in Lee County; 158 (+4) deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Tuesday, Lee Health had 248 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 27 new admissions Monday.

A total of 1,861 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including 40 on Monday.

The system has submitted a total of 42,730 specimens for testing with 1,060 results pending.

On Monday, Lee Health had a 18% positivity rate on COVID-19 tests processed through Lee Health Labs. This represents Lee Health results only, not Lee County as a whole. Hospital positivity rates tend to be higher as the tests are performed on patients seeking treatment for a health issue, not the general public that includes asymptomatic individuals.

Lee Health’s mobile collection sites on Monday collected 74 specimens.

Current census is at 94 (+4)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 20.3 (-2.7)% of those being COVID-19 patients. Staffed operational capacity reflects the number of beds for which the hospital has adequate staffing, not the total number of beds within Lee Health hospitals. Overall bed capacity fluctuates hour to hour as the system discharges patients throughout the day who are ready to go home.

As of Tuesday, 58 (+2)% of ventilators and 23 (+13)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

There are currently 30 (-1) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 39 (-3) in the intensive care unit.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home so as to limit exposure. All others are urged to observe social distancing and to wear a mask for all public interactions.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov .