SMH Activates 'No Visitors' Policy, Reports 2 New COVID-19 Cases

SMH Activates 'No Visitors' Policy, Reports 2 New COVID-19 Cases

Friday, March 20, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. – Effective 6 p.m. March 20, Sarasota Memorial will activate a “No Visitors” policy, restricting all visitors except in special circumstances. The temporary change is part of the health system’s ongoing effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard the health of patients, families, staff and the community. 

The hospital also confirmed that two more patients — one in their 60s and one in their 70s – who tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday. Those results bring the total number of patients diagnosed with the new coronavirus at SMH to 6. Three of the 6 have been safely discharged and three remain hospitalized. All have been in isolation since their admission, cared for by doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists trained in appropriate infection prevention and control measures. 

Samples from positive results are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for confirmation, but treated as confirmed cases for public health purposes. While Florida Department of Health officials work to identify close contacts of the individuals, hospital leaders worked through the night to begin identifying staff members who may have been exposed before the patients were placed in isolation. 

SMH follows CDC guidance to determine whether an employee’s risk of exposure is low, medium or high based on a number of factors, including the duration, distance and type of contact staff had with a patient, and whether personal protective equipment (PPE) was worn. As in the previous cases, most staff members were deemed low risk and cleared to return to work with a mask. They will be monitored twice a day for symptoms of the illness (fever of 100 degrees or higher, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) for 14 days from the date of exposure. To date, no staff members exposed have developed respiratory illness or tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder praised the diligence and dedication of the clinicians and physicians caring for patients at SMH. He also recognized around-the-clock efforts by hospital leaders and non-clinical staff to support the caregivers and safeguard the hospital and community from the spreading virus.   

“No matter how much you plan and prepare, there will always be unforeseen events and things you have to do differently,” Verinder said. “We have an incredible team and I could not be prouder as they rise to each and every challenge this virus throws our way.”

Below are the latest updates from SMH and its response to COVID-19. 

Patient Update
As of 11 am March 20, there have been 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since our first confirmed case on March 12. Three patients have been safely discharged and three remain hospitalized. 

Hours & Operations
Our facilities continue to operate under normal schedules with extra staff and infection control measures in place.
Surgery: We continue to perform non-emergency surgeries. As always, we rely on our physicians to decide, in consultation with their patients, whether to proceed with individual cases. We are continually evaluating the situation and available resources and can make immediate changes if necessary.
Cleaning: All surface areas of the hospital and its outpatient sites are continually and thoroughly cleaned with anti-microbial disinfectant to ensure a safe environment for everyone in our facility. In addition, high-risk clinical areas, such as operating rooms, intensive care units and other procedural areas in the hospital receive an extra layer of sanitation by SMH’s two Tru-D ultraviolet disinfection robots.

Visitor Update
Starting at 6 p.m. March 20, visitors will not be permitted in the hospital, except in a few special circumstances. Main entry points will have a staff member stopping and screening people before they enter. Visitors also are not permitted at:
• SMH Bayside Center for Behavioral Health
• SMH Rehab Pavilion / Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit 
• SMH Nursing & Rehab Center on Rand Boulevard

We encourage families to stay connected with patients through phone calls, Facebook, FaceTime, WhatsApp or other video calling apps. Staff will help assist if needed.
COVID-19 Testing
Local doctors and urgent care/walk-in medical centers do not have the ability to test for COVID-19 in their offices and clinics, and the majority lack the specially trained staff and protective gear needed to collect specimens in their offices for testing at state or commercial labs.

While there are drive-by collection sites that have been created in neighboring regions, hospitals remain the primary specimen collection sites for COVID-19 testing in Sarasota-Manatee Counties. Since capacity of local hospitals and public health labs remains limited, 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, based on CDC criteria and state guidelines. 

Commercial labs Quest and LabCorp ramped up their testing capacity in Florida this week. Specimen samples can now be sent to the commercial labs for patients who may not meet state criteria, but access in our community remains limited until there are community-based or drive-by specimen collection sites set up here to safely collect the samples for widespread testing.
Information & Precautions for the Public
Anyone who suspects they may have symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to call the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 call center, which is available 24/7 at 866-779-6121. 

If they need urgent or emergency care, people are encouraged to call their doctor or the SMH coronavirus command/information center at 941-262-4000 in advance of arrival at SMH’s emergency or urgent care centers so that appropriate precautions can be taken to minimize exposure to others. The SMH coronavirus command center is staffed 24/7 to provide staff, local healthcare providers, local nursing homes and others in the community with information and guidance. 

General information about prevention, treatment and SMH’s response to coronavirus in the community is also available through a recorded update on its public coronavirus hotline: 941-917-8799.