Sarasota hospital leases refrigerated trailer as ‘precautionary measure’ to expand morgue capacity amid COVID spike

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – The latest surge in COVID-19 cases continues putting stress on hospital systems across the state of Florida.

As of Tuesday, one-third of Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s patient census was COVID-positive. According to hospital officials, 278 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and 52 of those patients are in intensive care.

Last week, SMH’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control said “the hospital is busting at the seams.”

“We are still in the exponential phase growth. Are we getting to the top? I hope so because I don’t know how much more we can sustain,” Dr. Manuel Gordillo said.

Cases have been on the rise since early July. As expected, COVID-related deaths have lagged a few weeks behind. Hospital data shows 69 people have died with COVID-19 since Aug. 1 with 20 of those deaths happening since last Friday.

The hospital has stayed ahead of the curve throughout this latest surge, expanding ICU capacity as needed.

The same precautionary measures are in place when it comes to mortalities.

“We leased a refrigerated trailer as a precautionary measure to expand the capacity of our morgue in case it is needed during this fourth wave of the pandemic. The trailer is not in use at the moment, but is being prepared in case we see a surge in the coming days/weeks,” a hospital spokesperson told 8 On Your Side in an email.

The hospital is staying hopeful they won’t have to use the trailer.

“We are seeing a flattening of the number of people testing positive at our hospital, so hoping the trend will lead to a decline in hospitalizations in the coming days/weeks,” said a hospital spokesperson.

The hospital continues urging residents to take measures to protect themselves and the community including masking up, good hand hygiene, avoiding crowds and getting vaccinated.

“Right now, all hospitals in Florida are under tremendous stress and we need to do everything that we can to restore the ability of our healthcare system to operate more normally,” said Dr. Gordillo.

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