More than 45,000 people in Southwest Florida have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March, according to the Florida Department of Health’s most recent report Thursday.
The total represents 9.8% of all Florida cases.
The good news is the infection rate for the 10-county region appears to be on a gradual decline. Lee Health has reported a receding number of cases and ICU beds are becoming available faster than they fill up.
“As a community, we must continue doing what we are doing,” Dr. Larry Antonucci, CEO of Lee Health, said in a media update Wednesday evening.
“While the current trends are positive, we have been here before. We have seen what happens if we become complacent, and it is very likely that we see another spike in COVID-19 cases if we let our guard down.”
On a more somber note, the region continues to suffer a higher mortality rate than the rest of Florida.
The worst rate remains in Charlotte County, though that largely comes from deaths more than a month ago related to outbreaks in long-term care facilities. A total of 52 of the 85 deaths there occurred among residents or staff at nursing homes or assisted living centers, the DOH reports. Of those, 48 occurred before June 30.
But more recently, Manatee County saw a spike in deaths in the span of 48 hours when 15 deaths were reported. The county confirmed 176 COVID-19 deaths to date. A total of 100 deaths in long-term care facilities have now occurred in Manatee, just 12 of those in the last moth.
Lee County, the region’s most populous, has now seen more than 15,000 individuals test positive for COVID-19, nearly 2% of the total population. A total of 286 of the 13,137 known cases have resulted in death.
Other counties have higher infection and mortality rates. Three counties in the region — Hendry, DeSoto and Hardee — have infection rates higher than 3%. Notably, all three are largely rural, sparsely populated counties. Three more counties — Collier, Manatee and Glades — have seen more than 2% of the resident population infected.
The mortality rate for Florida as a whole remains less than 1.5%, but for Southwest Florida it’s nearly 2%. That’s still lower than the national mortality rate of nearly 3.4% or the worldwide mortality rate of greater than 3.9%.