Villages Health’s chief medical officer says 15 COVID-19 patients at local hospital

Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron

The chief medical officer of The Villages Health reported Tuesday that 15 COVID-19 patients are being treated at UF Health The Villages Hospital – and he also issued a warning to his healthcare organization’s patients.

Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron reported that figure and others in an email sent out to Villages Health patients on Tuesday. He said there also are 36 Coronavirus patients at UF Health Leesburg Hospital, with 16 being treated in intensive care. It’s unclear from the email if all of those patients are in Leesburg or if they are divided among the two hospitals.

Lowenkron, who came to The Villages Health from USF Health in February 2015, warned his agency’s patients that COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly in the local area and across Florida. The email cited the number of cases in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties and appears to be based on data that is six days old.

Lowenkron pointed out that COVID-19 numbers are accelerating among those in the 15 to 35 age group and is surpassing those of adults age 55 and older.

“While younger individuals are typically more able to tolerate and survive the infection, older individuals are at higher risk for more serious outcomes related to this infection,” said Lowenkron, who appeared on a panel with Gov. Ron DeSantis last week during a press conference at The Villages Hospital.

Dr. Elliot Sussman and Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron, of The Villages Health, attended President Trump’s private gathering at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center this past October.

Lowenkron pointed out to his patients that The Villages is the nation’s largest 55-and-older active-living community in the nation and warned them to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of disease transmission. He said seniors who have serious medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, Type II diabetes, and/or conditions with a weakened immunity system, are at an even higher risk of getting COVID-19 and should make pertinent decisions to reduce that danger.

“They should consider postponing participation in social events with more than 10 people, particularly those events held indoors,” he said. “Everyone can help reduce the risk of community spread by their behaviors.”

Lowekron, who along with Villages Health Chair Dr. Elliot Sussman attended President Trump’s private gathering at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center last October, offered several steps area residents can take in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • People, if sick, should avoid contact with others;
  • Social distancing of at least six feet is important;
  • Consistent mask wearing is advised;
  • Frequent handwashing, avoid shaking hands and minimize hand-to-face contact;
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, then wash your hands; and
  • Avoid interactions that last 15 minutes and are within six feet of others, especially without masks.

Lowenkron also pointed out steps The Villages Health has taken to create safer environments for its patients:

  • Temperature checks and questionnaire for all staff, patients and guests who enter a care center;
  • Employees who are ill or exposed are being quarantined at home until safe to return to work;
  • Social distancing practiced throughout the workplace;
  • Required mask use for all in the care center (patients and guests are provided masks if they need them);
  • Telephone triage to help assess risk, need for testing and need for aggressive care like hospital visits;
  • COVID-19 testing, if recommended, is performed in the parking lot to avoid potential infection of others; and
  • Patients called and offered a telehealth visit to provide needed care without risk of exposure in a care center.

UF Health announced a partnership with The Villages Health this past December that apparently includes plans to build a new hospital somewhere in the community. At the time, the two healthcare providers announced they’d signed a letter of intent to continue talks to build a new model for health care in the region. It was unclear from the announcement if UF Health had purchased a stake in The Villages Health – something that’s been rumored as a possibility for several years.

UF Health also announced in December that it had purchased the hospitals in The Villages and Leesburg that had been owned by Central Florida Health. That acquisition, which also had been rumored for quite some time, provided UF Health with 660 acute care beds in the tri-county area. The mega-healthcare organization already owns the world-renowned UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and UF Health Jacksonville – both highly regarded level one trauma centers.

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