Local hospitals prepare for potential surge in hospitalizations in coming weeks

Virus Outbreak Essential Workers
Posted at 7:14 AM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 07:26:20-05

TAMPA, Fla. — “We’re in a much better place now in December 2021 than we were certainly December 2019,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, Associate Medical Director of the Emergency Room at Tampa General Hospital.

Local hospitals have had plenty of experience treating COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic.

While hospitalizations are still pretty low in Florida, health experts predict the omicron variant could overrun some hospital systems.

Although some people are experiencing some milder symptoms with omicron, because of how fast it’s spreading and how many more people are now being infected with the virus, there will still be people who get severe COVID, so hospitals are preparing to see some critically ill patients.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve gotten good at it, unfortunately. That’s fortunate for public health just unfortunate we’re in that position that we still see COVID,” said Wilson.

Experts say it usually takes at least a few weeks into a surge to see it reflected in hospitals, so they’re preparing for a potentially busy January and February.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shortened quarantine guidelines for healthcare workers as long as they’re not symptomatic, in anticipation of increased omicron cases worsening hospital staff shortages.

The White House says the Biden Administration is activating FEMA to help provide additional staffing, getting mobile planning teams in every state to assess hospital needs ahead of winter surges, and expanding hospital bed capacity now, all funded by the federal government.

“In terms of hospitals being overrun, or in terms of options for what to do with patients once they get COVID, we are also in a better place,” said Wilson.

If hospitals in Tampa do see a big surge, they’re prepared and have a good plan in place. There are also more tools available now to treat patients and try to keep them from getting severely sick.

“If we do get sick we have monoclonal antibody infusions available for a year now,” said Wilson.

TGH also plans to use the Merck and Pfizer COVID-19 pills as treatment options once they become available.

“That would really help us keep some people out of the hospital who don’t need to be in the hospital, saving the hospitalized patients and resources for the sickest patients,” said Wilson.