Lee Health Officer Says COVID Could Surge Again

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

In concluding her Q&A with members of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce during a Sept. 15 virtual business meeting, Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Lee Health chief quality and patient safety officer, expressed concern that without a significant increase in coronavirus vaccines now, we will see another spike in cases in six months.

“Vaccination is absolutely the way we’re going to get this pandemic under control and not continue to see surges,” she said, adding that masking is the second most important precautionary measure. “All of us thought, even me, in June or so, man, we’ve come out on other side of this. I don’t think we could have predicted what late July and August were going to completely look like.”

Dr. Stovall shared charts showing how Florida and Lee County compare globally and nationally in terms of current cases, deaths, and vaccinations. She acknowledged a slight drop-off recently in cases throughout the U.S. and that Florida no longer ranks as the state with the most cases.

“Yes, we love the drop-off,” said the doctor. “We are encouraged by the drop-off. It is definitely hopeful for our community that we’re seeing fewer confirmed cases. We’re just not quite out of the woods yet.”

She pointed out that the high volume of ICU use and patients on ventilators offset the drop-off in number of cases for now.

After returning to in-person monthly business luncheons in June, the chamber board decided last month to postpone its scheduled September meeting at The Community House in favor of a Zoom meeting, given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases recently.

“I know that we didn’t see ourselves coming back to these Zoom meetings this quickly, but knowing that we pride ourselves here on Sanibel and Captiva islands as being San-Cap Safe, and knowing that our businesses are not going to benefit if we have to walk a lot of other things back, so here we are,” John Lai, Sanibel-Captiva chamber president and chief executive officer, said at the meeting’s opening. “I appreciate everyone being as flexible as you’ve been.”

“We just want a huge shout-out to our local chamber,” said Richard Johnson, co-owner of Bailey’s, which sponsored the virtual meeting. “You guys have always been forerunners in this battle against COVID, and I think today’s meeting is just another great example of what you’re doing.”

Lai announced that Luminary is “a go” this year on Dec. 3 and 4. “We are going to do it a little bit differently this year,” he said. “All the participating stores and businesses will be required to mask indoors. And we will be handing out not only the glowsticks and maps but also masks.”

Dr. Stovall commended the chamber for its cautious approach to returning to normalcy. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking that into consideration and protecting us all.”

Chamber board president Mark Blust told members about two upcoming events. On Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 12 p.m., Jesse Lavender, director of Lee County Parks & Recreation, will speak at the virtual Chamber Power Hour about the upcoming erosion-control, beautification, and enhancement projects getting started on the Sanibel Causeway.

Wednesday, Oct. 13, marks the next monthly business meeting, to be held outdoors under a tent at The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club on Sanibel Island. Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger at the J.N. ”Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, and Birgie Miller, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, will speak.

To sponsor that meeting, contact communications and marketing manager Landen Drake at landen @sanibel-captiva.org or 239-472-8255; or director of operations Mitch Orr at support@sanibel-captiva.org or 239-472-8759 for more information.

The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. With more than 460 active Chamber members from both islands and businesses from Lee and Collier counties, the Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. The Francis P. Bailey, Jr., Chamber Visitor Center is located at the entrance to Sanibel Island and welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year. VISIT FLORIDA named the visitor center one of 13 official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers in the state. It is open 365 days a year and provides comprehensive information about things to do, places to visit, and where to stay, shop, and dine. The chamber website receives more than 1.3 million website visits per year.

For more information about the chamber, visit sanibel-captiva.org or contact Landen Drake, communications and marketing manager, at 239-472-8255 or Landen@sanibel-captiva.org.

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