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Lee Health coronavirus patients soaring

Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations up more than 600% in past month

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jul 29, 2021

Lee Health CEO Larry Antonucci is urging Lee County residents to get vaccinated for COVIDI-19 as its hospitals have set a record for COVID-19 cases. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

The number of coronavirus patients at Lee Health has doubled over the past 10 days, rising from 111 patients last week Monday, to 210 patients Wednesday afternoon.

Lee Health hadn’t reported 200 or more coronavirus patients since January and coincided with an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control advising that those in high-risk communities wear masks indoors.

The number of patients at Lee Health with COVID-19 had dropped to 33 a month ago on June 25 before surging as the delta variant spread nationwide, particularly in areas where there are fewer people vaccinated. In Lee County, 58% of people 12 and older are vaccinated for the coronavirus, not far off the statewide rate of 60%.

According to Lee Health, 89% of its current patients for COVID-19 are unvaccinated and none of its patients in its intensive care unit have been unvaccinated.

According to Lee Health, 37 patients were in the intensive care unit and 14 were on ventilators on Wednesday. There were 30 new admissions Tuesday and 16 discharges for those with COVID-19.

Lee Health CEO Larry Antoncci (left) speaks with Salvatore Ferro, right, at Lee Health's Gulf Coast Medical Center campus in Fort Myers campus in April. Ferro's wife Jermaine was the first Lee County death from COVID-19. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

The healthcare provider issued the following statement Monday:

“At Lee Health, we want to encourage everyone who is able to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to do so as soon as possible. We have heard people in the community say they did not need a vaccine because they’ve already had COVID-19 and have antibodies to protect them from becoming infected again. While you do have some protection after recovering from the virus, it is unclear how long the immunity lasts. People who have gotten COVID-19 and recovered can absolutely get it again. That’s why the vaccine is so important.”

Lee Health CEO Larry Antonucci described the spike in coronavirus cases as ” threatening the well-being of Southwest Florida and beginning to put a strain on Lee Health’s resources, specifically in the emergency department. This week, patients in the ED are experiencing longer wait times than normal for this time of year as the coronavirus spreads through our community and the demand for COVID testing has skyrocketed.”


Antonucci encouraged those who need a COVID test to go to Lee Convenient Care clinics, CVS, Walgreens, any walk-in urgent care center in the area, or the Florida Department of Health drive-thru location in Ft. Myers. Antonucci said those heading to Lee Health hospitals should expect a long wait.


“The vaccine is working as it is supposed to, it does not guarantee you won’t get sick, but if you do get sick your risk of severe illness is dramatically decreased and odds are you will not be hospitalized,” Antonucci said.


“In addition to the decreased risk of severe illness, the more people who are vaccinated, the less opportunity there is for the coronavirus to spread across our community. Mutations like the current delta variant spread more quickly, and vaccination helps to lower the risk,” Antonucci said.


“Southwest Florida is currently a hotspot for COVID-19, and the CDC has updated their masking recommendations to include wearing masks indoors when out in public, even if you are fully vaccinated. Lee Health supports these recommendations, as the coronavirus ravages our community. Wearing a mask is one easy step you can take to add an extra layer of protection on top of the vaccine,” he said.


“The unfortunate truth is that we are still very much in the thick of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. By getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, everyone in our area can help save lives, keep people out of the hospital and conserve community resources,” Antonucci said.

Lee Health strongly urges everyone in the community age 12 and over get vaccinated. Doing so provides significant protection against serious illness even if you are exposed to the coronavirus. If you have not yet been vaccinated, go to  or call 343-0999 to schedule an appointment. The clinic at Gulf Coast Medical Center is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and vaccination is free. A parent or guardian must accompany a minor.