by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Lee Health System Director of Government Relations Michael Nachef told Sanibel City Council members the City of Sanibel and island businesses have done an “incredible job” dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have witnessed really strong and good behavior that is an example for a lot of the rest of the communities in Southwest Florida,” Nachef said in the Jan. 19 council meeting when he gave an update on the coronavirus from Lee Health.
Mayor Mick Denham said, “I think on the things we could control, we have done a good job. Mask wearing is something we as a council felt was important and we acted on that as a team very early on.”
Denham added 90-plus percent of island residents, in his observations, are wearing a mask and social distancing. “I think we struggle with visitors who come from places where masks are not required,” he said.
But Denham said he has been working with the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce to help spread the word and the city has put up signs as reminders to motorists coming on to Sanibel, both from across the Causeway and Captiva. “I think we have done a good job there,” he said.
In his update, Nachef said there were 192 COVID positive patients between Lee Health’s four acute care hospitals and the Gulf Coast skilled nursing care unit, as of Jan. 19. That’s down from two weeks ago when there were 232 total confirmed COVID positive patients.
“I mention that because what we have experienced over the last two weeks is a nice plateau and a slight decrease in patients, which is a good sign,” said Nachef. Although Lee Health continues to experience what he called “quite a bump” from the holidays, comparing the lower number of 44 COVID positive patients in early October.
“Everyone of these numbers represents a person, a life and someone we have invested a great deal in trying to care for and is meaningful to us,” he said.
Lee Health has run 74,167 tests in its labs and of that 13,610 were positive for an 18 percent conversion rate from March 1, 2020 to Jan. 19, 2021. However, the daily conversion rates over the past six weeks have been higher than average, ranging from 18 to 36 percent.
“Keep in mind when Lee Health tests someone that person is going to be symptomatic so we will have a higher conversion rate than the county or the state as a whole,” said Nachef.
Lee County has set up a vaccination site at the Regional Southwest International Airport where 2,000 vaccinations per day will be administered when supplies arrive. And the county has a goal of doubling that in the future. Nachef commended the RSW site.
“That site will really be an excellent model for other counties around the state to follow,” he said.
An executive order signed by Governor Ron DeSantis states vaccines are for those 65 years and older, all medical staff and those with certain preexisting conditions. Florida’s population includes 4.5 million residents who are 65 and older and that does not account for health care workers or those with underlying medical conditions
Just over 1 million people have been vaccinated throughout the state, as of Jan. 17. The largest age group to receive the vaccine, according to the Florida Department of Health, is 65 to 75 years old followed by those who are 45 to 65 with qualifying medical conditions and medical workers.
“There is certainly work to be done,” said Nachef. “I applaud the department of health and county government for putting in a very strong effort to right the ship and get a strong vaccination site going.”
Denham reported 98 percent of the vaccine doses provided to Lee County have been put into people’s arms, which places the county second in the state to do so. “I think we have done a good job there,” he said.
Denham went on to share resident’s and his own frustration with the county’s reservation system. “My word to you is to find a way to get more doses to this community,” said Denham. “We’re doing a good job with what we’ve got, but the reservation system is very frustrating.”
Denham also shared his desire to have a vaccination site on the island. He said there have been thoughts and considerations for it, but there has been no commitments to do it.
Sanibel residents deserve having a vaccination site on the Island. We are a “very contributing City” to the County, and many of us are in the “older” category. We must recieve shots elsewhere. Many of us don’t even travel off the Island, due to our age-related infirmities.
It would be appropriate for Sanibel to have a vaccination site for its residents. As a physician, I would be happy to help in any way to accomplish this. Appropriate sites: City Hall, Community House, Recreation Center. Vaccination can be given in a drive through manner as accomplished at the VA in Cape Coral. Their plan and method is exemplary.
David M Berger MD
We are Florida residents and reside on Sanibel and own property.I am 78 years old and my husband is 83 we have been on very site available and call, email or whatever is asked and have not even gotten a call back. We were up last week at 6 am to call Publics by 7:15 all 15,000 shot were gone. We would appreciate any help you could give us in getting the vaccine. we actually feel very captive and do nothing socially….do not attend events, do not go out to dinner, wear our masks everywhere…even when we walk the beach…Our children and grandchildren do not visit for fear they will give it to us. The positive thought that it could come to our island is encouraging.Thank you in advance..I remain Marlene King Burris
I wanted to be clear we will go anywhere necessary to receive the vaccination . It would be amazing to have it available on the island. Thank you for your efforts I am aware many people are waiting.I left a more detailed message above and want to compliment you on what you are trying to accomplish for all of us 65 and older.I am 78 and my husband is 83….
Yes, commendations to Sanibel for a good job of pushing masks and distancing. We might also inform our citizens which masks are effective and which are less so.
But Lee County needs to do a lot better, not only in its reservation system, but now in prioritizing the most vulnerable. In order to reach those most at risk, Lee County Health needs to prioritize the old-old, age 75+, those with two comorbidities, minorities and low income people, rather than lumping them with the over 65.
So far, in the first roll out of the vaccine to age 65+and first responders, the healthiest cohort, the young-old, age 65-75 are getting the most vaccines.
In addition the Lee County could make the vaccination process much safer by providing drive-through shots.