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Guest Commentary: Safer together

By Staff | Jun 3, 2020

As leaders of Lee and Collier County, we want to express our since thanks for all you have done to help slow the spread and flatten the curve of COVID-19. We know this has not been easy. The effort has taken a significant toll on every family and individual economically and emotionally. There is nothing this virus has not impacted.

We are doing a good job but this fight is far from over. As we’ve said many times, this is a marathon not a sprint. The first leg of the journey was indeed difficult and full of anxiety. This next leg of the journey is filled with cautious optimism as we re-open businesses, retail, beaches, restaurants and most importantly our hospitals get back doing what they do best keeping our citizens healthy.

That is the goal. A healthy community is safer against anything COVID-19 or any other disease thrown at us. The mission of both Lee Health and NCH is to keep people out of hospitals as much as possible and healthy. Both systems are not for profit. They operate for the benefit of our community. Their responsibility is to not only address the needs of this pandemic and serve on the frontline with testing, clinical trials, and treatment, but also to maintain the overall health of everyone in this community. Both systems enacted difficult austerity measures to mitigate heavy financial loss, while providing the exceptional care our community needs and deserves. They covered increased hours, pay, provided free food, depleted supplies and resources and ordered more PPE at higher costs all to keep us safe.

Lee Health and NCH are the role models in this pandemic.

They are our leaders on the frontlines. Their opening of elective surgeries, therapies, outpatient services, doctors’ offices and clinics should give you great confidence. It is reassuring to us as your county leaders that these clinical areas are returning.

We are side by side with our healthcare leaders in saying: “We are Safe. We are Open. We are Here.” Our local economy depends on the health of our citizens and that is why we have been fully supportive of the unprecedented collaboration by Lee Health and NCH to work together through their SWFL Stronger Together campaign. This campaign which launched mid-March to get ahead of the curve of COVID-19 has contributed over $1 million dollars to our health care systems. Much of this support has been in-kind donations of gowns, respirators, masks, gloves, food from local restaurants to feed our exhausted doctors and nurses, and homemade masks by the thousands.

We proved we are SWFL Stronger Together and now comes the next test to be SWFL Safer Together.

To be Safer Together, we ask you:

– Do not delay procedures or office visits with your doctor that keep you healthy.

– Return to your wellness routine.

– Get your annual checkup.

– Be sure to have your medications refilled.

– Get your blood test.

– If you need surgery, get it scheduled.

– If you have an emergency go to the emergency room, adults and children alike.

Please do not delay your healthcare needs. Both Lee Health and NCH are safe and can help, before a condition worsens.

Each day our knowledge of this virus grows. As we learn more we improve testing and diagnosis. With the return to a “new normal” both Lee Health and NCH have seen more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their hospitals. As Lee Health and NCH treat more patients their need for PPE goes up. These costs are a burden to our non-profit healthcare systems.

We need to continue to raise funds for this fight.

While the “surge” has passed the impact is long lasting and if we don’t support our healthcare systems, where will we be?

Lee Health and NCH need continued financial support to help maintain and replenish personal protective equipment for employees, patients and visitors as well as other necessary equipment to continue the fight through testing and diagnostics.

In taking the next steps forward, both healthcare systems have begun serology testing, which shows the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in a patient’s blood and helps to understand how the virus has spread in the region. Both systems are asking people who’ve had the virus to donate blood for the Mayo Clinic COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Study. Your plasma may contain antibodies that may help someone fighting COVID-19 recover faster.

We are in this together. We will fight together and we are stronger and safer together.

We thank you again for your support. If you have the means and can help, donations to SWFLtogether.org will continue to make a direct impact in keeping our community healthy and safe.

We are Safer Together!

– Raymond Sandelli represents District 3 on the Lee County Commission.

– Bill McDaniel represents District 5 on the Collier County Commission.