Leaders of Lee County’s public healthcare system in Florida held a news conference today, coinciding with the first day of school, to stress vaccinations and masking as the system nears capacity.
Lee Health’s President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Larry Antonucci said their Covid-19 numbers are increasing at unprecedented proportions.
“This is a different disease. The Delta variant is different than what we faced last year, it is much more contagious, it is affecting children at a higher rate than the Alpha variant and the original Covid virus,” Antonucci said. “And we’re seeing those numbers in our hospital. This is affecting our children, we want to do everything we can to protect our children as school begins.”
Antonucci said it’s important to note there were 30 patients with Covid in the hospital in May but just yesterday, Lee Health hospitals admitted 80 patients with Covid-19 and discharged 44 Covid-19 patients. He said Lee Health’s hospitals are now 94% full and the intensive care units are 93% full. There are currently 455 patients hospitalized with Covid, 64 patients are in the ICU and 35 patients are on ventilators.
Dr. Salomon Abitbol, a pediatric hospitalist, said in the past two weeks he’s treated children as young as five weeks and as old as 17 for Covid-19.
“So, basically anything goes, I’ve had some kids that do have some underlying conditions, asthma, obesity, but I’ve also had kids who’ve been completely and totally healthy,” Abitbol said.
Abitbol said doctors are now concerned with children who have recovered from Covid-19 presenting with multi-systemic inflammatory syndrome, a disease which causes generalized inflammation.
“That’s why I’m telling parents there is no age limit anymore,” Abitbol said. “At one point we thought it might be less in the pediatric world, but obviously, as I have experienced in these past few weeks, things are not looking that way.”
Lee Health’s Interim Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Stephanie Stovall said this school year is the first in more than 20 years where more parents are afraid, than excited, for the start of the new school year.
She said Lee Health is supportive of school districts requiring masking.