SARASOTA, Fla. – This evening, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) was alerted that one of our patients being screened for the new coronavirus tested presumptively positive for COVID-19.
The patient is a 70-year-old man who was admitted March 10 and placed in isolation under the care of staff trained in appropriate infection prevention and control measures. Test samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for confirmation, but SMH and state health officials are treating it as a confirmed case for public health purposes.
Hospital leaders are working closely with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to isolate and monitor any healthcare providers and close contacts of the patient potentially exposed, and implement testing of anyone who may develop COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough or shortness of breath.
State health officials are investigating the source of his infection and will identify others in the community who might have been exposed. A news conference will be held at the hospital on Friday to brief the community.
While the virus is not expected to cause severe illness in the majority of infected people, SMH CEO David Verinder stressed the need for everyone in the community to use caution and take the steps necessary to protect those most at-risk in Florida communities, primarily the elderly and those with respiratory or underlying medical conditions.
“Our team has been preparing for this eventuality for more than a month, and we have trained teams equipped with the resources needed to help keep our community safe,” Verinder said. “As more people are diagnosed in our nation, it is important to remember that we are talking about more than numbers. These are people we care for, and care about, and we all need to do our part to protect those most vulnerable in our community.”
SMH’s infection prevention staff, patient care teams and other leaders have been meeting frequently each day to ensure the hospital has the latest protocols, sufficient protective gear and trained staff in place to identify, isolate and care for any patients who may be at risk.
Patients with severe respiratory illness are hospitalized in isolation rooms, and the hospital limits staff to those trained to care for patients at risk of COVID-19. The hospital keeps logs on everyone entering the rooms so it can identify people who come into contact with the patient should the patient later test positive for COVID-19. The hospital has been restricting visitors to patients in isolation, and instead, encouraging video calls through FaceTime, Skype and other apps.
SMH and all of its emergency, urgent care and outpatient facilities remain open and are conducting business as usual, with extra staff and infection control measures in place. Signs are posted at entrances directing patients and visitors who have a fever, cough or mild cold or flu symptoms to staff who can immediately give them a face mask.
All surface areas of the hospital and outpatient sites are continually and thoroughly cleaned with anti-microbial disinfectant to ensure a safe environment for patients, staff, visitors and the community. In addition, isolation and 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 Tru-D ultraviolet disinfection robots.
Results Update 3/13/2020
This evening, we were notified that a second patient at Sarasota Memorial has presumptively tested positive for COVID-19.
The patient is a 67-year-old woman from Manatee County who was admitted to SMH on Wednesday, March 11. As with our first patient, she was placed in isolation under the care of staff trained in appropriate infection prevention and control measures.
Our Patient Care, Infection Control and Employee Health teams are working closely with Department of Health officials to identify staff and others at the hospital who may have come into contact with the second patient. As a precaution, we will ask those staff members to self-isolate until we can determine their risk of exposure and when they can safely return to work based on the latest CDC guidance.State health officials are investigating the source of her infection and will identify others in the community who might have been exposed.
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.
More information about prevention, treatment and SMH’s response to coronavirus in the community can be found online at www.smh.com/covid19 or through regular recorded updates on its public coronavirus hotline: 941-917-8799.