The Omicron surge is coming. Lee Health continues to encourage vaccinations and masking up
"This wave is forecasted to peak over the next two to three weeks. We do not anticipate that things will get better, we anticipate that they will get worse. So, we ask you as a community, wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands."
The Omicron variant surge is coming. And no amount of being over the pandemic is going to change that.
Armando Llechu is the Chief Officer of Hospital Operations and Women and Children's Services at Lee Health and he says local hospitals are nearing capacity, and the strain on staff is "incredible."
“We are 93% of our staff capacity today, with projections that over the next couple of weeks, we will get close to being at full capacity,” said Llechu.
As of Tuesday, January 11, 300 Lee Health employees are out either with COVID or in quarantine.
Llechu says Lee Health has made changes to the way they provide care, including halting non-emergency elective procedures that require an overnight stay. They anticipate that this will continue for the next few weeks.
Because of staff shortages and hospitals experiencing high-volumes in the ER, Llechu urges residents to seek emergency medical attention when necessary and not for COVID testing.
“We urge our community to not come to the ER to seek testing for COVID,” said Llechu. "There are alternate sites for testing that can be found on our website at LeeHealth.org.”
Lee TeleHealth is currently free and is an alternative to avoid longer than normal wait times at urgent care centers and emergency rooms.
Lee Health's President and CEO, Dr. Larry Antonucci, says the best protection against COVID is through vaccination.
“We know that if you’re vaccinated and boosted, your likelihood of winding up here is a lot lower," said Antonucci.
"In addition, your symptoms are likely to be mild if you’ve been fully vaccinated and boosted. So, we’re asking everyone, to please, if you have not been vaccinated yet and you are eligible, or if you’re eligible for a booster, to please do so.”
If you contract COVID and experience mild symptoms, the current recommendation is to isolate for five days. But if you have difficulty breathing or experience severe symptoms, Lee Health recommends seeking emergency medical treatment immediately.