Lee County coronavirus death was a Florida woman in her 70s
Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers.

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A second case was confirmed in the county on Saturday.

A woman who died in Lee County from the coronavirus recently traveled abroad and was in her 70s.

Another individual tested positive for the disease on Saturday within the same county, officials revealed.

Along with new positive tests in Charlotte, Manatee, Okaloosa, and Volusia counties, that brings the total number of positive cases of coronavirus to 16 in the state of Florida, according to the Department of Health. That’s a rapid escalation from three reported cases statewide Friday afternoon.

Two individuals have died in Florida. Both of those individuals were state residents, but officials have not released their names.

Lee Health officials on Saturday held a press conference at Gulf Coast Medical Center, where the woman died.

There, Lee Heath CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci and infection prevention Dr. Stephanie Stovall discussed the precautions being taken at the facility to limit the spread of the disease within the community, hospital staff or visiting loved ones.

Officials could not disclose if there was any relationship between the two Lee County patients or if they had been in contact with one another.

Reporters pressed officials on transparency; Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference in Naples Friday had said they had been no new cases hours before the Lee County patient was revealed to have died from the illness.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott also criticized the lack of transparency during an appearance on FOX News Saturday morning.

“I was very surprised when I learned about the death in Lee County, which is adjoining to the county I live in,” he said. “We didn’t even know there was even a presumptive case. We need to make sure, where did this person travel? We need to make sure if they traveled into the airport, who was on that flight? Let’s make sure they can get tested.

“We’ve got to get information out. We need to have way more transparency in this. At every level. State, federal and local. We need to have transparency. Like the case in Lee County. Tell people. We didn’t know there was a case until the person passed away.”

Scott frequently flies to and from Washington from Southwest Florida International Airport in Lee County.

Officials said the slow release of information relates in part to patient privacy. Until an individual is positively confirmed to have the virus, the sickness is not considered a public health threat and no information will be released.

The individual who died in Lee was confirmed to have the COVID-19 virus only after her death Thursday, officials said. Health officials informed the Governor’s Office of the posthumous diagnosis Friday evening.

Also, while officials in Lee County and elsewhere around the state employ appropriate protocols at the first indications a patient is presumptively positive, final tests must be done at a Department of Health lab in Miami.

In Lee County, tests have been shipped to Miami using FedEx or driven to the lab to get back information as quickly as possible.

DeSantis on Saturday directed the Division of Emergency Management to activate to a Level II state of emergency to ensure proper resources are being deployed around the state.

“It is critical that we proactively coordinate all state resources to mitigate and contain #COVID19,” he tweeted Saturday.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno for his part praised the Governor’s Office for the support provided amid the emergency.

“The Governor has been phenomenal,” Marceno said. “His chief of staff is doing a great job.”

He stressed that officials are releasing information to the public as fast as test results can be confirmed.

Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman acknowledged Lee County has a tourism economy and greets millions of visitors each year, many international travelers visiting Sanibel Island and other beaches.

But he said precautions are taking place to prevent the spread of the virus within the community. At this point, taxi cabs at the airport are being sanitized after every trip.

“Lee county did not wait until we heard about coronavirus being here to take precautions,” Hamman said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


4 comments

  • Ellen Hrabovsky

    March 7, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    Why are we as FL residents not being informed here as to where this person travelled and what her symptoms were ultimately bringing her to the hospital??
    Her airport of travel should have been made aware of this as immediately as possible so that any and all persons who m ay have come in contact with her could take appropriate measures!! I find the gov’t of FL to be trailing too far behind on releasing information like this !

  • Roger Hutchison

    March 7, 2020 at 4:47 pm

     First, let me say condolences to this woman’s family and friends.  I am truly sorry for your loss.  

    The content and implications of this article troubles me greatly.  I live a couple miles away from this hospital here in Fort Myers.  I travel 10’s of thousands of miles a year through RSW.  I want to know where this woman traveled to and when she returned.  What country was she in.  What airline or public transportation system did she use.  Were there other travelling companions?  Did the people who transported her to the hospital know she might be infected?  Did the hospital use the correct isolation protocol in her admission and treatment?  Are the hospital staff and medical transport personnel being tested as we speak? I want to know why I am being made aware of local cases of COVID-19 by a political journalist (good job Mr. Ogles) and not our elected leaders. This is not the time for panic or politics.  This is the time for our elected leaders who have plenty of experience with natural disasters to lead.  I want immediate, complete, total and unbiased transparency of information.  So Mr. Governor, Mr. Lee County Commissioner, Mr. Mayor, where are you and what leadership are you providing?  Dr. Roger Hutchison

  • Ellen Lockman

    March 9, 2020 at 9:59 am

    My parents live a few miles from this facility and are in the high risk health group for this disease. Fort Myers and the surrounding communities are a popular tourist area and full of snow birds who are already leaving to travel back to their home states. Florida leaders and the Lee County Health Dept (LCHD) are not being forthcoming with the needed information the public deserves. LCHD is citing HIPAA and patient confidentiality. The public deserves to know if the ambulance drivers who transported the two individuals to the hospital and the health care workers who came in initial contact with the them were allowed to leave or were immediately quarantined. Were the 2 pt’s self-quarantined in the week between the return from their trip and hospital admission? The LCHD will only state those who need to be contacted have been contacted. Transparency should be provided to improve safety to the residents of Lee Co. It can be done without breaching or violating the personal health information of the affected individuals.

  • Barb

    March 9, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    My mother was in Gulf Coast hospital for 4 days during the same time apparently as this women who was infected and died. She is in the high risk group. Also my father and I visited and spent countless hours in the ER, her rooms, gift shop, cafeteria, elevators, and halls of the hospital. What about the dozens of staff we encountered. What floor was the patient on? Why is it we are finding out on the news that we were at risk. While at the hospital we did take extra precautions not touching a lot of stuff and washing our hands a lot, but was it enough. I had no idea coming to visit my parents from Michigan would put me in danger. Someone better start giving us answers.

Comments are closed.


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