Lee County infections climb past 40k

But positivity rates have come down after a Tuesday spike.

Southwest Florida’s most populous county has seen more than 40,000 residents test positive for COVID-19.

Lee County reported 40,169 total cases as of Wednesday morning, according to the Department of Health. That means more than 5.2% of the county’s residents have at some point tested positive for COVID-19. About 1,047 of those positive tests come from non-Florida residents, and the average age for those with the disease in the county is 43.

At this point, at least 637 in the county have died with the coronavirus in their system. That means the county has seen a mortality rate roughly in line with the state as a whole and significantly lower than within the rest of the 10-county region.

The county saw a significant 4,581 tests come back on Tuesday, about three times as many came back the prior day. Positivity rates within the county were at 9.2%, just shy of the 10% return rate that sounds alarms with health officials. But on Tuesday, the positivity rate in the county skyrocketed to 18.2%, similar to spikes seen in metropolitan areas around the state.

Meanwhile, officials at Lee Health said efforts to distribute 10,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are proceeding.

“We are ramping up vaccination as quickly as possible, with the goal of immunizing as many as 1,000 employees and physicians each day. As additional doses of the vaccine are received, we will expand immunization to other health care workers and work with the Department of Health to provide vaccines to the community,” Dr. Larry Antonucci said on a media call.

“While the vaccine provides hope, we have many months ahead of us before we develop the herd immunity needed to discontinue wearing masks and social distancing. Over the Christmas holiday, we saw our largest spike in new hospitalizations in months. The coronavirus continues to spread in our community and COVID-19 threatens the capacity of our hospitals to treat everyone who needs our care, whether that is from COVID or other illness.”

Lee Health hospitals as of Tuesday afternoon had 10 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 30 in intensive care. The hospital reports 92% of its beds are filled, with 12.5% of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus.

The Tuesday positivity spike was most pronounced in the region in Collier County, where 30.55% of results reported were positive (thought that was out of just 291 total results.) There, too, positivity dropped to more normal levels, with around 8.46% of the 1,374 results reported Wednesday coming back positive.

The most concerning mortality rates in the region remain in Highlands County, where more than 200 have died with the virus in a community with just over 100,000 residents. About 1 in 25 Highlands County residents to test positive for COVID-19 have died before it left their system. But a lower percentage of the population has contracted that disease.

The only county with a lower infection rate, Charlotte County, also boasts the second highest mortality rate in the region, a sign those communities may be lagging behind the rest of the region in testing as nursing homes there continue to report a significant number of deaths. About 10% of all cases in Charlotte and Highlands have been in long-term care facilities. In both counties, more than 85% of deaths have been among individuals age 65 and older.

COVID-19 totals as of 12-30-20.

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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