Southwest Florida saw a dramatic leap in diagnosed cases of COVID-19 overnight, with cases in the region now exceeding 15,000.
The bulk of new cases were in Lee County, where 669 positive tests came back on Thursday alone, reports show. That’s a higher number of new cases than reported in all but two other Florida counties; Miami-Dade reported 1,528 cases Thursday and Hillsborough tallied 683, but both those include metropolitan population densities with far more people.
Lee Health President and CEO Larry Antonucci hinted at a coming spike in a morning briefing with local media.
“We are at a critical point in our battle against the coronavirus. Numbers don’t lie. Coronavirus is spreading throughout Southwest Florida, and we are seeing more hospitalizations and a higher positivity rate than ever before,” he said.
“Today we have more than 200 people in our hospitals and nursing homes with COVID-19. Just before Memorial Day, we had 80. This is a significant increase, and as a community, we have the power to reverse this trend. Together, we have the power to save lives.”
Neighboring Collier County, which has been dealing with a massive outbreak in Immokalee, saw another 264 cases Thursday, bringing total cases to 3,778 there.
Manatee County, which has seen troubles in nursing homes, reported another 166 cases Thursday. The county shares a border with Hillsborough, so spikes in cases there may show indication of outbreaks in Tampa Bay spreading out, the same way Collier has dealt with problems seeping in from the Miami-Dade region.
Sarasota County also saw a triple-digit-spike, with 105 new cases.
In total, about 1,338 new positives were tallied in the 10-county region on Thursday alone. That’s close to 9% of all cases recorded in the region, which is home to the first reported COVID-19 diagnosis in Florida and to the first casualty of the disease in the state.
That also means almost 15% of all new cases reported in the state of Florida on Thursday come from Southwest Florida.
On the bright said, there were only a handful more deaths in the region, with four more deaths reported Friday morning. But experts warn the next 14 days will be critical to see how many new patients’ lives are threatened by the disease.