SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Sarasota County leads the Tampa Bay area in COVID-19 vaccinations. Data shows about 60 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. However, hospitals are still seeing a recent surge in cases.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital decided to cut back its visitation hours this week due to a steep rise in cases. The hospital also started limiting the number of patient visitors allowed inside.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fiorica says the fourth surge is attacking younger, unvaccinated patients.
“Every surge is different. The difference this time is it is predominantly unvaccinated patients that are sick. They are younger patients. There are a lot of emotions and there is a lot of fatigue at the same time,” said Dr. Fiorica. “Now we are seeing 30 and 40-year-old patients that are sick… We are not used to seeing that. A year ago we were talking about an older population they had a lot of underlying medical conditions, now we are dealing with healthy, young patients,” he continued.
Just last month, SMH’s intensive care unit was COVID-free.
Three weeks ago on July 8, there were 15 COVID patients at the hospital with two in the ICU. As of July 29, the COVID census is at 95 patients with 23 in the ICU.
The ICU census has doubled in less than one week. The hospital reported 11 COVID patients in it’s ICU on Monday, July 26.
Fortunately, staffing and capacity aren’t an issue. SMH is prepared to expand bed capacity if needed.
“If volumes exceed our normal 62-bed capacity, we have the ability to convert other clinical areas for critical care use. We have the equipment and resources to increase our ICU capacity within 24-48 hours if needed – as we did during previous surges,” explained a hospital spokesperson.
Dr. Fiorica has this message for those who are unvaccinated.
“If there is any time to be vaccinated, now is the time to be vaccinated so we can put this to an end,” said Dr. Fiorica. “I want to encourage people to get out there in public and start wearing masks again. I think it is the right thing to do. I want to encourage people that if you were in a crowd and less than 6 feet away, you could be exposed or you could be exposing the virus without knowing it, so please put that mask on and do the handwashing techniques and really accept that this is the real deal that we don’t want to downplay it,” he continued.