A surge in COVID-19 cases has prompted AdventHealth Wesley Chapel and BayCare’s St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz to temporarily halt elective surgeries.
BayCare also tightened its visitation rules, effective Aug. 3.
“No one takes any pleasure in having to limit visits from patients’ loved ones or telling someone they will need to wait for their procedure,” BayCare Chief Operating Officer Glenn Waters said, on a hospital website posting. “But our first priority has to be to keep our facilities as safe as possible for our caregivers, so patients can recover and return home as soon as possible.”
AdventHealth continues to see a significant increase in COVID-19 cases at its facilities across West Florida and has surpassed its highest peak since the pandemic began, according to the healthcare system’s website.
AdventHealth Wesley Chapel and AdventHealth Carrollwood have temporarily postponed any non-urgent elective procedures that require an overnight stay, according to media alerts from AdventHealth.
Dr. Doug Ross, is chief medical officer of AdventHealth Hospital Tampa, the largest AdventHealth Hospital in Tampa Bay. He shared updates for the West Florida Division locations during an Aug. 3 video interview, published on the hospital’s Facebook and LinkedIn Live event.
“In the Tampa Bay region, we’re well over 300 patients now,” Ross said, noting that number exceeds the hospital’s past surges.
“Greater than 90% of those patients are unvaccinated and our numbers continue to grow,” Ross said.
The health care system has seen patients ranging from a baby, to people into their 90s, he said. “But really the shift has been toward younger people because those are the people who have opted not to get vaccinated,” he said. “So, that’s what we’re seeing.”
“It’s the usual symptoms,” he said, including shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms such as congestion, headache, cough and runny nose.
Ross said the delta variant “is probably tied with some of the most contagious viruses we’ve ever known — measles and chicken pox being examples of that.”
“That’s very concerning because the amount of spread that is occurring is so much greater,” he said.
It went from one patient spreading it to two or three patients, in the early COVID cases, to now, with one patient spreading it to eight or 10, he said.
“The viral load seems to be so much greater in delta variant, probably a thousand times greater in the respiratory tract.
“That means when you cough or sneeze or whatever, there’s a lot more virus that’s being let out into your surroundings and makes it more likely that other people will pick up that virus,” Ross said.
He encouraged people who are not immunized to get immunized.
“You will have a lot less severity if you’re immunized and you get the delta variant than if you didn’t have it,” he said. “That, to me, seems a pretty compelling argument.”
The other argument, he said, “is that you want to protect other people. There’s a certain sense of community that I think we need to appeal to people on, because as we reach herd immunity, we’re actually protecting people that can’t protect themselves.”
That includes people who have immune deficiencies, as well as children who are 12 and under and can’t get the vaccine yet, he said.
Ross continued: “If we don’t get control of this virus and it’s continuing to mutate, there is some fear out in the scientific community that this virus could mutate to a point where it actually beats the vaccines. It comes to a point that it mutates in such a way that the vaccine is no longer effective to the virus and then, we are back to really Square One, with the entire population, because no one will be immune to that variant.”
Ross also advised both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations.
Those going to indoor public spaces should wear masks, Ross said, “to protect themselves from getting the infection and from spreading the infection.”
It’s been shown that people who have been immunized can get infected, Ross said. It may stay asymptomatic, but they are still able to spread it.
He also encourages people to maintain social distancing, to limit their chance of exposure, and washing their hands.
“Try to avoid spaces that are indoor spaces, with a lot of people,” he added.
Ross also touched on the impact that this new surge has had on health care workers.
“We’d gone through two surges,” he said. “We thought we were sort of improving and getting better, and things were calming down.
“Now, all of a sudden, when we thought we were getting a handle on this whole thing, we had a surge and a surge bigger than any surge we’ve had so far. So that has really been a challenge emotionally to people because people were a little bit celebratory — in their own minds — because they had gotten through the worst of COVID, and that’s just not the case.”
While the hospital’s staff is very dedicated, he said, “we’re all a bit frustrated because of the fact that if more of the population had been vaccinated, we wouldn’t be seeing this surge and we wouldn’t be stressing our health systems out.”
Ross also offered another reason for wearing a mask: “One of the early reasons to wear a mask was to sort of dampen the curve, the rate of increase of the viral spread, so that it wouldn’t put a strain on our health systems.
“If this continues to rise, the way it’s rising, it’s definitely putting and will continue to put, a significant strain on our health systems,” Ross said.
To get the most current information relating to any changes regarding hospital policies, be sure to check with your local hospital.
In response to the surging cases, Hillsborough County has temporarily opened two COVID-19 testing sites, to help shorten the wait times for people wanting to check on their status, according to a county news release.
The county had anticipated administering 500 tests at each site but, in total, administered more than 2,000.
The sites are located at:
- Palm River Community Center, 725 S. 58th St., in Tampa
- Code Enforcement Complex, 1101 E. 139th Ave., in Tampa
The sites are open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with testing done on a first-come, first-served basis.
There is no charge to be tested and health insurance is not required.
If you have health insurance, however, bring your insurance card because federal guidelines require the collection of health insurance data.
COVID 19 statistics, July 30 through Aug. 5
Florida: New cases: 134,506; new case positivity, 18.9%
Pasco: New cases, 3,404; new case positivity, 24.3%
Hillsborough: New cases, 8,583; new case positivity, 22.8%
Source: Florida Department of Health
Published August 11, 2021