SARASOTA, Fla. — COVID-19 cases have continued to rise, leading hospitals in Sarasota and Manatee counties to start clamping down on visitations.
Sarasota's new cases hit 1,412 last week while Manatee County had 1,552 cases. The jump is 10 times more than the number of new cases reported this time last month.
Local experts say such rapid multiplication of cases is part of the troubling trend with the delta variant of the virus. They say the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has changed so much from its original state and so have the mostly unvaccinated patients who are getting sick.
"This fourth surge is different. A year ago we were talking about an older population that had a lot of other health issues that we were dealing with now we're dealing with healthy young patients. Now we're seeing 30s and 40-year-old patients that are sick," said Chief Medical Officer James Fiorica, MD, of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.
The spread has been pushing area hospitals to make changes to their visitation policies. Sarasota Memorial Hospital has changed its visitation policy due to this steep rise in COVID-19 cases. No more visitors are allowed for patients except in special situations like end-of-life care. The temporary change is intended to reduce the number of people who enter into the hospital and protect patients and staff from rising cases of COVID-19 on the Suncoast, according to hospital officials.
"We know how important visitor support is to our patients, but these new restrictions are for everyone's protection," said Dr. Fiorica.
The hospital will allow limited support persons for patients in the Labor & Delivery/Mother-Baby units, and for children admitted to the Pediatric Unit or Neonatal Intensive Care Units. A support person also may be permitted to wait in a designated area while patients undergo surgery and certain types of procedures or therapy. This is the third time the hospital has activated a 'No Visitors' policy since the start of the pandemic.
Manatee Memorial Hospital has also switched to limited visitation for the hospital's Inpatient Nursing Units, the Emergency Department and Surgical/Procedural Area. The hospital is allowing only one visitor per day with visitation hours remaining from between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Patients who are positive or being treated for COVID-19 will not be allowed visitors.
Hospitals are encouraging loved ones to opt for virtual visits using their mobile technology. Staff would also help provide support for patients to connect with friends and family.
Also starting Monday, AdventHealth will temporarily postpone non-urgent elective procedures that require overnight stays at its Wesley Chapel hospital.