TAMPA, Fla. — As communities across the country see a spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitals in the Tampa Bay area continue to deal with the surge. Doctors and hospital systems say they are prepared to handle the rise in cases and influx of patients, but also ask people at home to help them by doing their part.
“From a pediatric standpoint, we have not seen this. This is the worst that we’ve had since the pandemic started by far,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, the Chief Medical Officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Perno explains for their pediatric patients, they’re still seeing a continued rise.
“We’ve seen over the last seven days double the number of positives that we saw the previous seven days,” said Perno. “Fortunately, most of these children are being seen in our emergency room and sent home. We haven’t seen a dramatic change in hospitalization rates.”
ABC Action News checked in with other local hospitals as well. At Sarasota Memorial, they say their COVID inpatient census, which was in the single digits earlier this month, is now 92, explaining it has doubled since last week.
BayCare Health System says it is curtailing some elective procedures in its hospitals in Hillsborough and Polk Counties due to a growing census in its hospitals. It says the change, for now, will only impact elective procedures that require an overnight stay in an inpatient bed.
Baycare added in a statement that in the past three weeks, "COVID patients in BayCare hospitals have increased more than three-fold."
Many health experts point to the Delta variant and relaxed masking as factors behind it all. The rapid rise in cases is also taking a toll on healthcare workers.
“Our nursing staff, our physician staff, they’re stretched, and they’re taxed. We’re seeing wintertime volumes at a time that it should be a lull for us,” said Perno.
According to a statewide COVID-19 update from the Florida Hospital Association, current hospitalizations as of Wednesday, July 28 are at 8,816, while on a previous peak on July 23, 2020, there were 10,179.
At All Children’s Hospital, Dr. Perno explained they’re fortunate that most of the children don’t require hospitalization, so they’re requiring limited resources, but he says they have surge plans in place if needed.
To help protect the most vulnerable, especially those who aren’t eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, doctors urge people to wear a mask and get vaccinated.
“Any time we are faced with any disease that I can’t just fix easy right, write a prescription for an antibiotic and say get better, it makes us feel as healthcare workers very frustrated, very helpless, and this is one of those diseases,” said Dr. Perno.