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Tampa Bay area hospitals prepare for surge in COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 coronavirus
Posted at 5:56 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 17:56:30-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Doctors are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country and here in the Tampa Bay area. Local hospitals say they’re doing their best to stay prepared, while some are even updating visitor policies.

Starting Tuesday, July 27, Sarasota Memorial Hospital says it is reducing visiting hours and limiting the number of patient visitors allowed, citing the continuing steep rise in COVID-19 cases.

“Across our western division, we’re seeing a significant uptick in patients with COVID requiring hospitalizations. We’ve, over this week so far, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in our COVID patients just in the last few days, and it’s going up rather rapidly,” said AdventHealth Tampa’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doug Ross.

Ross says they’re doing everything they can not to get overwhelmed and are very prepared for a surge like they have been in the past. Health experts have cited the Delta variant as a factor behind the recent rise.

“90 to 95 percent of the patients who are being hospitalized are the ones who are unvaccinated. So the vast, vast majority of patients are unvaccinated, and they require hospitalization and much more aggressive treatment. They need to be in the ICU. They need sometimes to be on the ventilators. They need to be proned, as we do, so that population is the one that’s getting it most severely,” said Ross. “We see only a handful, if that, of patients who’ve been vaccinated who require any sort of hospitalization. Their length of stay is shorter in the hospital. They do not require intensive care. They require some supportive care, but that’s pretty much it.”

Amelia Russell, the Chief Nursing Officer at Largo Medical Center, says their numbers have significantly increased over the course of the past week, but she thinks the good news this time is they know what they’re dealing with and have resources, like appropriate PPE.

“People are tired. There was some tears in our eyes as we shut down our COVID unit a few weeks ago and as numbers were diminishing after people were vaccinated, and we all took a breath, resumed business as usual,” said Russell. “[It’s] disappointing to see the numbers increase this time around. Some frustration that we’re potentially doing this again when we may know how to prevent it.”

ABC Action News reached out to several hospital systems in the Tampa Bay area about what they’re seeing with current COVID-19 cases. Some hospitals said they’ve seen a sharp increase in cases, while others also noted right now, they have the resources they need to care for this surge of patients.

Still, doctors ask people to protect themselves and others by masking up and getting vaccinated.

“We hate when the last words we hear from someone prior to them being intubated is, ‘Can I please have the vaccine now?” said Russell. “Unfortunately, then it’s too late.”