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Lee Health has seen a 10% drop in hospitalizations since Friday

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Ann Lee, a pharmacist for Lee Health prepares COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at Gulf Coast Medical Center. Vaccinations have picked up as the delta variant has started to spread.

Lee Health’s number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped 10% to 525 on Tuesday, its lowest count since mid-August.

The publicly operated hospital system in Lee County had 586 COVID-19 patients on Friday.

NCH Healthcare System in Collier County was the largest hospital system and reported a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday.

Lee Health’s caseload dropped below 500 for the last time on Aug. 13, when 498 of its patients were admitted. Lee Health reports that it peaked at 657 in August 26.

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Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and chief executive officer of Lee Health, said Tuesday at a media briefing that he was cautiously optimistic the decrease would continue but said the community and the hospital system are not out of the woods.

He said, “We are still facing significant capacity issues.”

Tuesday was a good day for the hospital system. It had 97% of its operational beds and staff. Last Friday it was at 100% operational capacity.

Some sedation rooms at Golisano Children’s Hospital have been converted to patient care areas, and some pediatric beds are being used for adults, he said.

Over the three-day holiday weekend 40 patients died. Thirteen of these died Monday. The total number of hospital deaths now stands at 995.

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Antonucci explained that because patients are sicker with the Delta variant, he believes deaths will remain in double figures for a while. Lee Health had 88 patients admitted to the intensive care unit on Tuesday. There were also 75 patients who were using ventilators.

Asked about whether Labor Day celebrations could drive volumes back up, Antonucci said it is concerning, especially after seeing football stadiums full over the weekend with people not masked.

“I think the next seven to 10 days will be very telling,” he said.

Lee Health is treating 15 pediatric patients at its Golisano Children’s Hospital, two more than on Friday. 

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Dr. Stephanie Stovall is the chief of quality and safety at the hospital. She said they continue to see more children admitted and advised parents to make sure their children are vaccinated if necessary.

Tami Anderson, a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Golisano, said she’s been a nurse for 38 years and all outbreaks in the past were a dress rehearsal compared to the challenge of COVID-19 and how indiscriminate and brutal it is to children. 

She stated that they couldn’t breathe, could not move and could not get up at the news conference.

Nichole Arevalo, an R.N. at the downtown campus of NCH in Naples treats a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit on Monday, August 9, 2021.

NCH in Collier reported 191 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, down from Friday’s 205 patients. NCH has lost nine patients to COVID-19 over the past week, bringing the total number of deaths to 301.

163 of the COVID-19 patients in NCH were not vaccinated, which is 85%. The patients range in age from 13 to 98 and include three children.

NCH currently operates at 151% of its staffed and operational critical beds, with 71 beds in use. It normally has 47 critical care bed. COVID-19 patients are using 47 of the critical care beds, while 36 others are on ventilators.

Physicians Regional Healthcare System in Collier also reported 96 patients with COVID1-19 on Tuesday. The same number as last Friday.

CDC recommendations to keep children safe in schools.

Lee County had 7,583 cases last week. That’s an average of around 1,080 cases per day. The county had reported 7,703 incidents a week before. Lee County has reported 113 221 cases throughout the pandemic.

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Collier County had reported 2,156 cases during the week ending September 30, an average of 308 per days. It had previously reported 2,278 cases a week prior. Collier has reported 52.184 cases during the pandemic.

Florida reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 129,202 new cases, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. This is nearly 15% less than the previous week’s total 151,760 cases of COVID-19.

USA TODAY reporter Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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