Lee Health reports increase in COVID-19 delta variant cases

Hospitals are seeing a worrying increase in patients with COVID-19. Lee Health has seen the number nearly triple in recent weeks, and they blame the delta variant for the rise.

One study finds the risk of ending up in the hospital is about double for people infected with the variant, but even if you stay out of the hospital – and even if you’re fully vaccinated – there’s still some risk.

“We were down to about 27 to 30 a day. Now, we’re seeing somewhere between 65 and 70 to 75 a day. So almost triple what we were seeing before,” said Dr. Stephanie Stovall, interim chief quality and safety officer with Lee Health.

Stovall said it was just a matter of time.

“Only about 47% of our population in Florida is fully vaccinated, and so there are a lot of people out there eligible, if you will, to be infected with delta.”

She said they knew they probably hadn’t “reached the level of vaccination that we would need to reach in order to stop it in its tracks.”

The ones who are hospitalized are those who are unvaccinated, and Stovall said the delta variant accounts for “around 50% of our strains in the state of Florida.”

The delta variant, which is more contagious and can make you sicker, isn’t only affecting unvaccinated people.

“There are what they’re calling breakthroughs because they’re fully vaccinated, but they do get a positive test,” Stovall said.

“That vaccine is keeping them from being hospitalized and dying of the disease.”

Those people are “riding it out at home,” Stovall said, and do fine.

She said for people who are fully vaccinated, it may feel like a normal cold, but even a mild coronavirus infection puts them at risk of developing long-haul symptoms. That’s why she’s urging everyone to get vaccinated and mask up.

“We know that the light at the end of the tunnel hasn’t been shown yet. But we’re hopeful that people will get out, get vaccinated, and protect themselves.”

If you want to get vaccinated, you don’t have to schedule an appointment. Lee Health is accepting walk-ins at its Gulf Coast Medical Center clinic on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If you would like to schedule an appointment, you can do so here.

The vaccinations are open to adults and children 12 and up.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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