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More than 20,000 now infected in Southwest Florida

Hendry County, with population of just 40,000, cracked 1,000 cases.

More than 20,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Southwest Florida, where more than 600 residents have died.

That’s according to the latest report from the Florida Department of Health, released Friday morning.

Medical professionals in the region expressed increasing alarm as the region faces a growing threat.

“Between our hospitals and skilled nursing units, we are treating 327 COVID-19 patients. Just a month ago, we were treating around 100 COVID patients each day,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, CEO of Lee Health.

“In one month we went from 100 to over 300, triple the number of hospitalizations. As we enter this holiday weekend, and we celebrate with friends and family, we must take the threat of this virus extremely seriously.”

Antonucci’s comments came as Florida saw another day with more than 9,000 new cases.

Lee County, the most populous in the 10-county region, leads in cases and deaths. The Department of Health reports 6,668 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 there since the pandemic was first reported in Florida on March 1.

That includes 445 Lee County patients whose positive test results were reported on Thursday and Friday morning. The median age of Lee County patients remains slightly higher than the state as a whole, 40 compared to 41.

But the county notably has a lower infection rate per 100,000 residents than Southwest Florida as a whole.

The worst infection rate can be found in Hendry County, where now more than 1,000 people have been diagnosed. That’s a significant number for a county of just over 40,000. And with 27 residents dead among the 1,021 infected, that means the mortality rate exceeds 5%, second in the region only to Charlotte County.

In Charlotte, the bulk of deaths were not recent, and the mortality rate has at least dropped below 10%. But that’s because cases have increased with 860 residents now diagnosed.

In Collier County, total cases now exceed 4,700, of whom 85 have died. The county’s escalation in numbers, as well as Hendry’s, comes as health officials reach into the Immokalee community to address an outbreak among migrant workers.

Manatee County, meanwhile, saw cases grow to 3,261. That’s considerably higher than neighboring Sarasota County, with 1,814 cases. The figures are dwarfed by outbreaks in Tampa Bay, which have drawn concern from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Antonucci said it’s imperative for individuals heading into the holiday weekend to act responsibly to limit the further spread of the coronavirus.

“We know how to stop this spread, we have done it before, and I am asking for our community to help us do it again. At our current rate, Lee Health hospitals will be completely full by the end of the month,” he said.

“Wearing a mask and distancing can be inconvenient and at times uncomfortable, but the science is clear, these actions help save lives by slowing the spread of the virus.”

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Editor’s note on methodology: The Florida Department of Health releases new data every morning around 10:45 a.m. The total number reported in those daily reports include the previous day’s totals as well as the most up to date data as of about 9:30 a.m.

Florida Politics uses the report-over-report increase to document the number of new cases each day because it represents the most up-to-date data available. Some of the more specific data, including positivity rates and demographics, considers a different data set that includes only cases reported the previous day.

This is important to note because the DOH report lists different daily totals than our methodology to show day-over-day trends. Their numbers do not include non-residents who tested positive in the state and they only include single-day data, therefore some data in the DOH report may appear lower than what we report. 

Our methodology was established based on careful consideration among our editorial staff to capture both the most recent and accurate trends. 

SWFL, as of morning 7-3-20.

Written By

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 jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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