Lee County deaths continue to climb as oldest residents feel brunt

The county's mortality rate slightly exceeds Florida as a whole.

Health officials report a 17th Lee County resident died from COVID-19, according to the latest data released Monday morning.

The most recent death was a 94-year-old woman who first tested positive on April 8.

Her passing served as a stark reminder of how Southwest Florida’s demographic put the region especially at risk.

The state’s first reported death, a 77-year-old woman who recently traveled to the Dominican Republic, occurred in Lee County. The woman died March 5 and was among the first seven cases reported in the state. The woman was diagnosed with COVID-19 posthumously, at which point Lee officials had not yet announced a suspected case.

Since then, Lee County has dramatically increased testing and treatment as the coronavirus rose to global pandemic levels.

Jonathan Little, communications director for Lee Health, said 16 patients have died within the hospital group’s facilities. That includes deaths at Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital.

Department of Health reports reveal most of those who have died so far of the illness were older than age 65. The youngest local death remains Conrad Buchanan, a local DJ who was 39 years old. The next youngest was a 62-year-old woman first tested positive on April 6. Investigators say neither of those deaths were travel-related.

“Underlying medical issues seem to increase the severity of illness with COVID-19,” said Tammy Yzaguirre, public information office for the Lee County Health Department, regarding the significant number of deaths.

“Individuals 65 and over have a higher incidence of medical conditions which in turn can put them at increased risk for COVID-19.”

Outside of those two cases, Lee deaths include two in their late 60s, five in their 70s, four in their 80s, three in their 90s and one 100-year-old.

Lee County has 632 COVID-19 cases as of 11 a.m. on Monday with a mortality rate of about 2.7%.

The county ranks seventh of Florida’s 67 counties in number of cases, behind Duval. Lee ranks fourth in number of deaths., behind only South Florida hotspots Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

But that’s all the more striking considering Lee has a substantially lower population than any county with more deaths attributed to the virus.

Lee County has about 82 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, compared to about 96 cases per 100,000 statewide. The county suffered 2.2 deaths per 100,000, roughly the same as the state as a whole.

The most populous county in Southwest Florida represents the epicenter of a region struck by the pandemic. Manatee County has seen 13 deaths, Sarasota 12, Charlotte and Highland five each, Collier four, DeSoto three and Glades one.

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]


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