Lee Health holds briefing on omicron surge, talks treatments; 284 COVID-19 patients Tuesday

Published: January 11, 2022 10:11 AM EST
Updated: January 11, 2022 6:07 PM EST

Lee Health says it is caring for 284 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals on Tuesday morning. The hospital says it is still seeing an above-average number of patients.

Infection by omicron is less dangerous for most people than infection by delta, but the variant is hitting Lee Health hospitals just as hard as before.

Dr. Armando Llechu said, “Our hospitals are again, nearing capacity.”

It’s true that fewer people are being hospitalized for COVID-19 now than during delta, but omicron is way more transmissible. This means more people are coming in for tests at emergency rooms and convenient care centers and more staff are getting sick.

“We have about 300 employees who are either out with COVID or are in quarantine due to an exposure pending testing,” said Dr. Armando Llechu.

The numbers translate to a simple message from Lee Health officials: Please don’t come to the ER to get tested. Please do come if you are very sick.

WINK News asked Dr. Llechu if someone went to the hospital just for a test if it would delay treatment for someone who really needs it or put them in danger.

Dr. Llechu said, “the goal is no. The goal is to ensure that we treat every patient based on acuity and the patients that need it. Get access to care the quickest on what it does mean for someone like you who would be coming in that doesn’t need to is you’re going to wait a long time, and you’re probably not going to be very happy and you’re likely not going to be very pleasant to the people trying to care for you. And so that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

Lee Health held a press conference about the recent COVID-19 surge. You can watch in the player below or by clicking here.

The following is COVID-19 hospitalization information provided by Lee Health:

  • As of Tuesday morning, Lee Health has 284 COVID-19 patients isolated in its hospitals (inpatient).
  • 29 of those patients are in the ICU, 12 are on ventilators.
  • Of these patients, nine of them are being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Four are in the ICU.
  • As of Tuesday morning, the hospital census was at 93% of staffed operational bed capacity.
  • Lee Health says it has about 300 staff members that have tested positive for COVID-19 or are isolating after coming in contact with the virus.
  • Monday, Lee Health emergency departments saw 1,063 patients. Before the current omicron surge, the emergency departments were averaging about 900 patients per day.
  • Monday, Lee Convenient Care saw 512 patients, the LCC locations were averaging about 360 patients per day before the omicron surge.

“Due to the high number of employees currently, either with COVID or on quarantine, everyone has experienced longer than usual waits. We’ve had to make changes to the way we provide care,” Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci

Lee Health suspended elective procedures requiring an overnight stay and is begging people to use free telehealth visits to avoid the hospital unless absolutely necessary knowing COVID fatigue is also going around.

Their public plea, is to help them, help you. “This has been going on now two years, and people are tired. And that’s why we want to get the message out as much as we can to continue to wear masks when you’re in public areas where you’re likely to spread the virus, I think you only have to pay attention to what we’re all seeing in this community where we’ve all seen a number of people that we know that have come down with COVID,” said Dr. Antonucci.

Dr. Antonucci said he expects the peak in cases in a few weeks and not this week as experts predicted for Florida in general. He says the hospital has been watching the local numbers and the steep climb and believe we still have a ways to go.

Dr. Antonucci is urging the community to get vaccinated. He said only about 35% of the community has received a COVID-19 booster.

Lee TeleHealth is currently free and is an easy alternative to avoid longer than normal wait times at urgent care centers. To access Lee Telehealth, download the Lee Health app or visit www.LeeTelehealth.org.