Twenty-five COVID-19 patients are being treated in the two local hospitals –four in intensive care – and 12 employees of The Village Health have tested positive for the potentially deadly virus.
That’s according to Dr. Jeffrey Lowenkron, chief medical officer of The Villages Health, who sent out an email update to the organization’s nearly 60,000 patients on Friday. In addition to providing local statistics about the virus, Lowenkron also offered tips to help keep area residents safe following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent decision to move Florida into Phase 3 of his reopening plan, which among other things, allows bars and restaurants to operate at 100 percent capacity.
Of the eight COVID-19 patients at UF Health The Villages Hospital and 17 at UF Health Leesburg Hospital, Lowenkron reported that four are in intensive care, with none on ventilators. He said hospitalization peaked on July 21 with 81 patients in the two facilities and mortality from the illness has slowed over the past six weeks.
Lowenkron also reported that 42 Villages Health employees were tested for COVID-19 and all 12 who were diagnosed with the virus have returned to work after completing the necessary quarantine period.
“Most healthcare workers, whether at hospitals, nursing homes or our care centers, have their exposures outside of work,” he said.
Lowenkron said his staff also is aware of 154 cases among Villages Health patients, with 28 hospitalizations and eight deaths.
“There are likely cases among our patients we have not heard about,” he said. “We likely heard about all our patients who were hospitalized or died.”
Lowenkron warned his patients – many of whom are 55 or older and among those most at risk of serious complications connected with COVID-19 – that as Florida fully moves into Phase 3, maintaining vigilance will be extremely important. His words of caution came at an appropriate time for Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, as all three town squares are opening back up with entertainment Monday night, though in limited capacities with precautions in place.
“Phase 3 does not mean the risk of contracting COVID-19 is gone,” he said. “At one of the Harvard University hospitals five days ago, they found an internal outbreak of 42 employees and patients, which serves as a reminder that we need to stay focused and maintain protections.”
Some of the tips Lowenkron offered patients include:
- Seniors who have serious medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or conditions reflective of weakened immunity, should consider postponing participation in large-scale social events, particularly those events held indoors with multiple close contacts.
- People should not attend in-person events if they are sick.
- Social distancing of at least six feet is important.
- Consistent mask wearing is advised.
- Wash hands frequently, avoid shaking hands and minimize hand-to-face contact.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, then wash your hands.
- Avoid interactions that last 15 minutes and are within 6 feet of others, especially without masks.
- Flu vaccines are available and people should strongly consider vaccination.
Precautions being taken at Villages Health facilities include:
- 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 for 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.
- Patients will be called and offered a telehealth visit to provide needed care without risk of exposure in a care center.