COVID-19 Surges and Vaccinations Have Begun

by SC Guest Contributor Barbara Joy Cooley

Assessing the risk posed by COVID-19 on Sanibel and Captiva involves considering the situation at the hospitals in Lee County. The islands have no hospitals; island residents depend upon hospitals on the mainland. Those hospitals are on the front line of the epidemic in Lee County.

Lee Health, the main hospital system for Lee County, continues to experience high occupancy rates and positivity rates (percent of tests that are positive) for COVID-19 tests processed in Lee Health laboratories. Over the past week, the occupancy rate was 95% on December 30, and 96% on January 5. The daily positivity rates were 32.2% on December 30 and 34% on January 5. Occupancy of adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds was 89% on December 30, and 93% on January 5.

Meanwhile, the Lee Health system has been vaccinating its key workers, as well as staff members who are 65 or older. As more vaccines are received, Lee Health will announce plans for vaccinating residents who are over 65.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 17,020,575 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed as of January 5. (Some of these are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and some are the Moderna vaccine – see below.) Of those distributed, 4,836,469 vaccines have been administered to people as of January 5. All of those people will need a second dose of vaccine in a few weeks. (For reference, the USA population is 328,239,520.)

Here is a brief overview of four COVID-19 vaccines that are or may be available this year in the U.S.

1. Pfizer-BioNTech
Two shots, given three weeks apart.
Developed by Pfizer, an American multi-national corporation, and BioNTech, a German company.
Uses messenger RNA technology.
Approved in Canada and other countries. Approved for emergency use in the USA and other countries.
Must be frozen.

2. Moderna
Two shots, given 28 days apart.
Developed by Moderna, a Massachusetts biotechnology company, in a partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Uses messenger RNA technology.
Approved in Canada. Approved for emergency use in the USA and Israel.
Must be frozen.

3. Johnson & Johnson
One shot.
Developed by Janssen, a Belgium-based pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson, an American multi-national corporation, in conjunction with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA.
Uses adenovirus technology, like the Ebola vaccine.
FDA approval for emergency use anticipated in February 2021.
The company is taking reservations for orders, pending vaccine approval.
Does not need to stay frozen; may be refrigerated for up to 3 months.

4. Oxford-Astra Zeneca
Two shots, four weeks apart.
Developed by a partnership of the University of Oxford and Astra-Zeneca, a British-Swedish company.
Uses adenovirus technology.
Approved for emergency use in Britain, Argentina, and India. Clinical trial in USA has been paused due to an adverse reaction.
Does not need to stay frozen; may be refrigerated.

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of January 6, there have been 158 cases of COVID-19 among people who call Sanibel and Captiva home. But this does not include cases of COVID-19 among people who work, play, visit, or volunteer on the islands; many or most of them live on the mainland.

In Lee County, there have been 41,596 cases of COVID-19 as of January 6. (In my last report, on December 30, that number was 38,659.) That’s an increase of approximately 5,000 known cases since December 21. So, about 5.4 percent of Lee County residents have had COVID-19, as far as is known. An unknown number of people exhibit no symptoms when infected with COVID-19; the virus is only detected when people are tested.

For more information on the incidence of COVID-19 in Florida, click here for the Florida COVID-19 Dashboard. Tabs at the bottom of that web page can be used to find data by county and by zip code.

Comments (8)

  1. Virginia Stringer

    Thank you Barbara. Your Guest Contributions have been very informative and even handed. What a gift you are to our community.

  2. We beg those in charge of vaccinations in Lee county to institute an organized reservation system for getting people vaccinated. Having older adults, many whom are compromised in other ways, stand inline for hours, sometimes overnight, is clearly NOT the way to approach this problem. New Mexico has established an online portal for vaccine reservations. Lee county should look at this approach as one option to address an unmet need of our residents.

  3. I look forward to your thorough reports. Thank you for keeping us informed.

  4. I have written to the Lee County Commissioners Office, called the Governor’s office and emailed as well that although we are pleased to be able to get vaccines when available the sign up system is not working well to allow it – almost like trying to win the lottery. There needs to be a more finite number trying to get an appointment at the same time – 85 and up, then 80-85 – something to allow reservations to be made in a more timely manner. Friends have told me of waiting over 5 hours to get a call back and when it came the call was dropped, frustration of being in queue for a long time only to be bounced out, others spending hours searching out of county locations. We are hopeful that when Biden takes over with the release of more vaccines that the state will be prepared to have numerous locations provide the shots by utilizing anyone qualified to give the shots – retired nurses, pharmacys, etc. Everyone should contact those in charge of distribution to make their voices heard – only the source can do something about it and complaining amongst ourselves is useless.

  5. We all need this vaccine here on Sanibel & Captive. Please get it together and get this much needed vaccine out to us who are compromised, and are over 65. Please move this along to those of us trying to get into these call centers! Why are the vaccines sitting in freezers all over Lee County not being given out? What is the purpose of this hold up? Give the vaccine to our Doctors so they can administer this much needed vaccine to us please. Thank you
    Mimie DiRico

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