Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) is working closely with public health officials at the local, state and national levels to help keep our staff, patients and community safe.
The best thing we can do as a community is to stay informed and take common-sense precautions to guard against this and other viruses. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19. This is a continually evolving situation, and information will be updated as it becomes available.
Click here for the latest COVID-19 news releases from Sarasota Memorial.
Click here for the daily update on patients with COVID-19 at SMH.
For the latest county-by-county update, click here to visit the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) website.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is SMH doing about COVID-19?
As the region’s largest hospital and employer, our top priority is everyone’s health and safety, and SMH wants to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our patients and community. We will continue to monitor the latest developments and update procedures and policies as necessary.
- Visitation Restricted — Visitors are currently not allowed at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, with limited exception (see below). Staff are stationed at key entrances at the hospital to help provide direction and screen permitted visitors who meet restriction exception criteria. Loved ones are encouraged to instead connect with patients via video calling apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp. Visitors are also restricted at Sarasota Memorial's Nursing and Rehab Center and Bayside Center for Behavioral Health. Limited exceptions to the visitor restriction will be made in special instances; these include:
- Labor & Delivery patients may each have one support person. Expectant parents with questions about how this will impact their birth experience may call 941-313-0943 to speak with a clinical nursing leader. (Click here for a Q&A on pregnancy, birth and COVID-19.)
- Pediatrics patients may each have one parent/support person.
- NICU patients may each have two designated visitors, but only one of those may visit per day.
- Patients in surgical, procedural and testing areas may each have one support person.
- One essential caregiver is allowed for patients in the Emergency Care Center.
- Other extraordinary circumstances, such as end-of-life situations.
- We have opened a 24/7 coronavirus command center to provide staff, local healthcare providers, local nursing homes and others with information and guidance.
- Increasing Available Capacity — As our number of cases increase, SMH has plans in place to manage a large surge in COVID-19 and suspecetd COVID-19 cases. Among these are increasing available ICU capacity from 62 to 80 beds and adding to our inventory of ventilators. We also have identified other areas to care for an influx, and are coordinating plans with local and state officials.
- Universal Staff Masking Policy: SMH has instituted a universal staff mask-wearing policy. For details, please click here. We will continue to closely monitor our supplies and make protocol adjustments as necessary.
- Events Canceled — In accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for social distancing, Sarasota Memorial has canceled or postponed public events, classes and group meetings across all Sarasota Memorial locations. We are offering online alternatives when possible.
- Elective Surgeries Canceled — All non-essential, elective surgeries have been canceled. Per an Executive Order from the Governor of Florida, we are prohibited from providing any medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery unless delaying it would place a patient’s immediate health or well-being at risk. Patients with previously scheduled surgeries should contact their physician for more information.
- HealthFit, Sarasota Memorial's medically integrated fitness center, has temporarily closed, and all group fitness classes have been canceled.
- SMH has launched a public coronavirus hotline (941-917-8799) offering local coronavirus information that is updated regularly.
- Telemedicine — We are actively working on setting up telemedicine options across all levels of care. Some inpatient and outpatient programs as well as some First Physicians Group (FPG) primary care and specialty practices have already begun using virtual care services, and we hope to expand telehealth services to all FPG providers soon.
Should I still receive care at SMH?
Yes. At SMH, there are many infection control and management measures in place at all times. Unless your care provider contacts you directly to reschedule an appointment, please plan to keep all existing appointments at Sarasota Memorial outpatient facilities. Our top priority is safely providing high-quality care for our patients.
Is it safe to go to an Urgent Care or other outpatient care center?
Yes. In addition to strict recommended infection control procedures, our outpatient and Urgent Care Centers (UCCs) have implemented new screening processes to help ensure patient and staff safety. Staff are posted outside the facilities to screen patients upon arrival.
- UCCs, Lab & Imaging centers: If a patient has flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms or has had exposure to someone with COVID-19 patient, the patient is given a mask and staff inside are notified so they can don personal protective equipment (PPE) before the patient enters. Upon entry, the patient is immediately taken to an exam room to prevent other patients’ exposure.
- Outpatient Rehab: Patients who are symptomatic or who have had contact with a COVID-19 patient are asked to reschedule outpatient rehab appointments.
Should I still receive care at a First Physicians Group Office?
Yes. In-person office visits for illness or injury can be scheduled as needed. Strict infection prevention measures are being followed to ensure the offices can safely continue to care for patients.
FPG patients in need of treatment should call their physician’s office to determine whether the doctor is available via telemedicine. If not, you may request a phone visit to discuss simple questions, concerns and refills; however, your physician may need to see you in person for appropriate care.
Can I get tested for COVID-19, if I'm not a hospital patient?
The Sarasota Department of Health (DOH) and Sarasota County Government is operating a temporary, drive-up COVID-19 specimen collection site at Twin Lakes Park (6700 Clark Rd., Sarasota); specimens will be sent to labs for processing.
Sarasota residents must have a physician prescription for COVID-19 testing, and they must have an appointment to be tested at this site. The prescribing physician will contact DOH Sarasota, and DOH will reach out to patients to make appointments.
For more information on community COVID-19 testing in Sarasota, call the Sarasota County COVID-19 call center at 941-861-2883.
Who can be tested for COVID-19 at SMH?
At Sarasota Memorial Hospital, testing priority is given to hospitalized patients (primarily the more vulnerable elderly and those with underlying health problems), as well as people with symptoms and known exposure to the virus through travel or contact with other people infected.
Are you accepting supply donations?
We sincerely appreciate the outpouring of offers to donate supplies from our generous community. Our teams are continually evaluating supply needs and working with our vendors and partners to meet current and future needs, while continuing to follow all CDC guidelines.
- Donating sealed, commercially produced items: Please email email@example.com or call 941-917-7011 for instructions on how to drop off sealed, commercially produced medical supplies (gloves, N95 masks, etc.).
- Donating DIY / handmade surgical masks or gowns: Please call 941-917-7122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Note that donations made to SMH are not tax-deductible.
Restaurant Food Delivery Donations: We also appreciate the many local restaurants and coffee shops who have delivered food for our staff. Restaurants and coffee shops planning to drop off food to SMH for staff should first email email@example.com or call 941-917-7011 for delivery instructions.
If You Have COVID-19 Symptoms
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
What should I do if I think I (or someone in my family) have COVID-19 symptoms?
- If you have mild symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing), call your physician, other healthcare providers or the Sarasota County COVID-19 Call Center (941-861-2883) as soon as possible, and before seeking care. Review your signs, symptoms and travel history thoroughly with them.
- If you have severe symptoms, or you have underlying conditions, such as a weakened immune system or chronic respiratory disease, call your family physician or the the Sarasota County COVID-19 Call Center (941-861-2883) for guidance on how to seek care without exposing others.
- Call ahead before you visit any care center and let them know that you think you may have COVID-19.
- Stay home when possible; separate yourself from other people and animals at home.
- Be vigilant about practicing virus prevention, including proper hand hygiene and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. See "Prevention Steps" below.
- Wear a surgical mask, if you are sick to avoid exposing others during close contact; close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of someone else. For those who are sick, a mask can reduce the number of droplets coughed into the air.
For more information, contact the Sarasota County COVID-19 Call Center (941-861-2883) or the Florida Department of Health hotline at 866-779-6121 (24 hours a day).
I might have been exposed. What should I do?
If you have had close contact (within 6 ft.) with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 and have symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing), call your doctor right away. If you do not have a care provider, call the Sarasota County COVID-19 Call Center (941-861-2883) or the SMH coronavirus information hotline (941-917-8799) for guidance.
The CDC advises people who have no symptoms but believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after their last potential exposure.
For general information, call the Florida Dept. of Health's hotline (866-779-6121) or click here.
Should I wear a facemask or surgical mask in public?
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease, according to the CDC. For prevention tips, see below or click here.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19 infection?
The best way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay informed and to use the same common-sense precautions you take to guard against other illnesses.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t an option. Click here for tips on how to effectively wash your hands and how to teach children to as well.
- Cough or sneeze into your sleeve (the crook of your elbow), shirt or a tissue, not into your hands, and encourage kids to do the same.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and encourage those around you to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Stay home if you’re sick and do not return to work, school or social activities until you have been fever-free for at least 48 hours without medication.
- Clean commonly touched surfaces in your home and workplace with bleach, ammonia or alcohol-based disinfectants. Wipe down and disinfect things like doorknobs, light switches, refrigerator handle(s), TV or stereo remote controls, computer keyboards, your home telephone, cellphones and other touchscreen devices, etc.
- If you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for instructions on how to seek care without exposing others.
While there are no EPA-registered disinfectants specifically listed as having the ability to kill COVID-19, related viruses with similar physical and biochemical properties can be killed with bleach, ammonia or alcohol, or cleaning agents containing any of these disinfectants.
For more tips, check out the CDC’s Prevention & Treatment info and its Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings.
How does COVID-19 spread?
Current understanding about how COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease, and there is more to learn about how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes and to what extent it may spread in the United States.
Person-to-person spread: The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects: It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
SMH Employee Labor Pool Request Forms
Click the links below to access to the related forms.
Employees Requesting Shifts
Managers Requesting Employees
* Page last updated 12 pm April 2, 2020. Some information is based on CDC updates, which are rapidly evolving. For the most up to date info, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.