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COVID-19 Morning Report

Virus Outbreak-Vaccine Mandates
Matt Rourke/AP
FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2021 file photo, a syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa. Businesses that have announced vaccine mandates say some workers who had been on the fence have since gotten inoculated against COVID-19. But many holdouts remain — a likely sign of what is to come once a federal mandate goes into effect. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Lee Health and NCH Resume Elective Surgeries as COVID-19 Patient Populations Continue Decline

Both Lee Health and the NCH Healthcare system have resumed performing elective surgeries as numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continue to decline.

Lee Health released a statement, Monday, saying elective surgeries for patients requiring an overnight hospital stay are resuming as the number of hospitalized COVID patients has dropped below 100 for the first time in close to two months.

Lee Health reported treating 197 hospitalized COVID patients, Sept. 27, down from 291 patients a week ago and down from a record high of 657 patients on Aug. 26.

Of those, six are pediatric patients in Golisano Children's Hospital, down from nine last Monday.

85% of Lee Health's ICU rooms are full with 56 COVID patients requiring intensive care, including 40 on ventilators.

Lee Health reported being at 82% of staffed operational bed capacity, Monday.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 hospitalized patient decline, the death toll continues to rise. The News-Press reports that in just the past week, Lee Health has reported the deaths of 46 COVID patients, including three fatalities on Sunday, for a total of 1,147 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci released a statement Monday saying in part, "I thank all of our patients for their understanding as their non-life-threatening surgeries were temporarily delayed. The best thing our community can do to help prevent further COVID-19 surges is to get vaccinated today."

NCH in Collier County reported treating 86 COVID-19 patients, Monday, which is 34 fewer patients than a week prior, and down from a record high of 232 COVID patients on Aug. 22.

NCH reported treating two pediatric patients, Monday, which is unchanged from Friday.

79% of NCH's hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

NCH reports that since the start of the pandemic, 334 hospitalized patients have died due to complications from COVID-19, including four more fatalities over the weekend.

State Workers Struggle Amid Ongoing Pandemic

State workers in Florida are still struggling more than a year and half into the COVID-19 pandemic. The AP reports, three state prisons are closing because they don't have enough corrections officers. Some state employees have reported that when colleagues fall ill, they aren't being properly informed.

Coronavirus outbreaks have forced the closure of some government facilities, including the Manatee County administration building in Bradenton, which closed in June following COVID infections among staff that led to hospitalizations and deaths.

Many of Florida's 105,000 state workers began working remotely at the start of the pandemic, but agencies under Governor Ron DeSantis' control began ordering employees back to their offices last October with mask wearing and social distancing optional. Since then, state agencies have disclosed little public information about how their workers are faring.

Jackson Doctor Credits More Than Monoclonal Antibodies Treatments With COVID-19 Decrease

Over the summer, Florida hospitals reported spiking numbers of patients with COVID-19. Jackson Health System had almost 450 COVID-19 patients in late August. About a month later, on Sept. 24, that number dropped to almost 190.

Governor Ron DeSantis says the state’s increased access to monoclonal antibodies treatment drove numbers down, but it’s not so clear cut.

Monoclonal antibodies treatments limit the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. DeSantis has focused his pandemic policy on this drug lately.

“No doubt we’ve kept thousands and thousands and thousands of people out of the hospitals, saved many many lives, and if you look since we went and did this, you’ve seen a huge decline in daily hospital admissions in the state of Florida,” said DeSantis.

Chief Medical Officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Dr. Hany Atallah said this treatment should not replace getting vaccinated, wearing masks and keeping distances.

“So, while it brought down the numbers and may have prevented some hospitalizations for a subset of patients who were given the medication on an outpatient basis, I don’t think it was the biggest impact in terms of the reducing number,” said Atallah.

He said as people heard about record COVID-19 highs, they took more preventative measures. Dr. Atallah urges people to get vaccinated, including against the flu.

Atallah said the more people worry about COVID-19, the more precautions they take.

“The media raises the red flag and says ‘Listen, everyone needs to be more careful,’ and so people start to rethink what they’re doing and then the numbers start to go back down,” said Atallah.

On its website, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a “high” COVID-19 transmission rate for Florida. The agency recommends wearing masks indoors, too.

Leon School Kids Will No Longer Have to Quarantine If They're Asymptomatic. The District is Planning to Re-File Its Mask Lawsuit

The Leon County School District will allow asymptomatic children to stay in school. Those students will still have to wear a mask, though. And sick children or those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 will have to remain home unless they get a clean PCR test. The district's policy change comes after the Florida Department of Health revised its rules governing student quarantines.

"I was really hoping we would have done the quarantine aspect a little sooner," said Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna. "I feel that we need to be inline or in concert with any Department of Health Rules—we can never be less restrictive, but I feel it's appropriate in some cases, to be more restrictive, which is what we’ve done.”

Still, Hanna remains opposed to additional rule revisions that give parents sole decision-making over school masking. A lawsuit filed by several districts, including Leon, over the issue was recently dismissed. Hanna says he'll sue again. A dozen other Florida districts are presently defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempts to ban mandatory masking in schools.

“I was hoping we could all work as a team to see our state and local communities through this pandemic. I think it's obvious the governor doesn’t want to have a team, he wants a team of one. But I have to do what I think is best for the children of Tallahassee and Leon County," Hanna said.

The district has fought to keep its mandatory mask policy in place, amid mounting pressure from the state and threats of funding cuts and removal from office. Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna says it’s the hill he’s willing to die on.

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