COVID-19 Surges and Vaccinations Have Begun

Assessing the risk posed by COVID-19 on Sanibel and Captiva involves considering the situation at the hospitals in Lee County.  The islands have no hospitals; island residents depend upon hospitals on the mainland.  Those hospitals are on the front line of the epidemic in Lee County.

Lee Health, the main hospital system for Lee County, continues to experience high occupancy rates and positivity rates (percent of tests that are positive) for COVID-19 tests processed in Lee Health laboratories.  Over the past week, the occupancy rate was 95% on December 30, and 96% on January 5.  The daily positivity rates were 32.2% on December 30 and 34% on January 5.  Occupancy of adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds was 89% on December 30, and 93% on January 5.

Meanwhile, the Lee Health system has been vaccinating its key workers, as well as staff members who are 65 or older.  As more vaccines are received, Lee Health will announce plans for vaccinating residents who are over 65. 

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 17,020,575 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed as of January 5.  (Some of these are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and some are the Moderna vaccine – see below.)  Of those distributed, 4,836,469 vaccines have been administered to people as of January 5.  All of those people will need a second dose of vaccine in a few weeks.  (For reference, the USA population is 328,239,520.)

Here is a brief overview of four COVID-19 vaccines that are or may be available this year in the U.S.

1.     Pfizer-BioNTech

Two shots, given three weeks apart.

Developed by Pfizer, an American multi-national corporation, and BioNTech, a German company.

Uses messenger RNA technology.

Approved in Canada and other countries.  Approved for emergency use in the USA and other countries.

Must be frozen.


2.        Moderna

Two shots, given 28 days apart.

Developed by Moderna, a Massachusetts biotechnology company, in a partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Uses messenger RNA technology.

Approved in Canada.  Approved for emergency use in the USA and Israel.

Must be frozen.

3.     Johnson & Johnson

One shot.

Developed by Janssen, a Belgium-based pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson, an American multi-national corporation, in conjunction with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA.

Uses adenovirus technology, like the Ebola vaccine.

FDA approval for emergency use anticipated in February 2021.

The company is taking reservations for orders, pending vaccine approval.

Does not need to stay frozen; may be refrigerated for up to 3 months.


4.        Oxford-Astra Zeneca

Two shots, four weeks apart.

Developed by a partnership of the University of Oxford and Astra-Zeneca, a British-Swedish company.

Uses adenovirus technology.

Approved for emergency use in Britain, Argentina, and India.  Clinical trial in USA has been paused due to an adverse reaction.

Does not need to stay frozen; may be refrigerated.

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of January 6, there have been 158 cases of COVID-19 among people who call Sanibel and Captiva home.  But this does not include cases of COVID-19 among people who work, play, visit, or volunteer on the islands; many or most of them live on the mainland. 

In Lee County, there have been 41,596 cases of COVID-19 as of January 6.  (In my last report, on December 30, that number was 38,659.)  That’s an increase of approximately 5,000 known cases since December 21.  So, about 5.4 percent of Lee County residents have had COVID-19, as far as is known. An unknown number of people exhibit no symptoms when infected with COVID-19; the virus is only detected when people are tested.

For more information on the incidence of COVID-19 in Florida, click here for the Florida COVID-19 Dashboard.  Tabs at the bottom of that web page can be used to find data by county and by zip code.






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