SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Visitation at hospitals across Tampa Bay have been restricted for months due to COVID-19 concerns. Doctors Hospital of Sarasota stopped allowing visitors in back on March 20.

For the first time in nearly three months, the hospital’s doors reopened to visitors Thursday with some restrictions in place.

Doctors Hospital of Sarasota had the first confirmed COVID-19 patent in Florida now the hospital is allowing one visitor per patient on inpatient floors between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.

All visitors are required to undergo the same screening process as hospital staff and physicians including a temperature check. Everyone is required to wear a mask provided by the hospital.

At this point, COVID-19 positive patients and patients being tested for the virus cannot have any visitors.

“We have taken very extreme measures to make sure that the environment is safe,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Schandorf-Lartey. “We have every confidence that the protocols we have in place will protect patients, it will protect staff, it will protect visitors and we can make this place is safe for everyone who is coming in,” he continued.

Richard Burelle visits his wife, Sylvia, at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.

Richard Burelle went to Doctors Hospital of Sarasota first thing Thursday to visit with his wife of 54 years who he says is dealing with heart problems. He admits, they’re not used to spending much time apart. He was pleased to have an opportunity to see her.

“It’s just a real comfort to be able to talk to her. It was just great. I can’t kiss her yet, but it’s great,” said Burelle.

Burelle tells 8 On Your Side he felt safe going into the hospital, but admits people need to be cautious. “You’re not looking out just for yourself; you are looking out for everybody else,” said Burelle.

Hospital leaders say they spent weeks looking at ways to start reincorporating visitation after receiving guidance from the CDC and Florida Department of Health. With COVID-19 cases in Florida seeing an upward trend as of late, Dr. Schandorf-Lartey tells 8 On Your Side the hospital is prepared to switch gears if it needs to.

“In any timeline of an infectious disease, there will be ups and downs and the epidemiologists and scientists will watch and if the guidance is that we take different measures as we did before at the beginning, we will have to do that. It all depends on what happens,” said the doctor. “We stay in contact with the officials at the Department of Health, the CDC, and the epidemiologists and they will be providing guidance as to what we need to do in Florida if it becomes such that we have to go a different direction, but as of now, every indication is that the processes that are being put in place in the hospital are to keep patients safe,” he continued.

Visitors at Doctors Hospital are only allowed in inpatient units, the emergency room, and outpatient units for procedures requiring sedation.

These are the questions being asked during the screening process:

• Have you had a fever and signs/symptoms of respiratory illness (cough, flu-like symptoms, or shortness of breath)?
• Have you traveled outside the country within the last 14 days (including a cruise)?
• Have you traveled by plane or train in the past 14 days?
• Have you been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 without wearing the proper protective equipment?
• Are you currently being tested for COVID-19?

If you screen positive (yes) to any of the above – you will not be provided access to the facility unless seeking emergency medical assistance. Patients may consider using phone, Skype, or FaceTime to communicate with family and friends during this time.