Sarasota Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Discusses Vaccine Myths As 'No Visitor' Policy Begins
The policy, which has limited exceptions, was instituted in an effort to protect patients and staff from rising cases of COVID-19.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital will begin a no-visitor policy on Monday in an effort to protect patients and staff from rising cases of COVID-19.
“We know how important visitor support is to our patients, but these new restrictions are for everyone’s protection,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fiorica said Friday.
Exceptions to the policy include:
- Patients in certain extraordinary circumstances, such as end-of-life care.
- Patients in the Emergency Care Center, who may each have one support person allowed to wait in the lobby.
- Labor and delivery and mother-bay unit patients, who may have one support person. Tranfers may also have a doula or midwide.
- Pediatric patients, who may each have one parent/caregiver/support person per day.
- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients, who may have two visitors, but only one day. The visitor must be the patient's parent/caregiver/designated support person.
- Patients in surgical, procedural and therapy departments, who may each have one support person that must remain in the waiting area.
For those who cannot visit, staff will be available to help connect families and friends via video apps such as Skype or FaceTime. The hospital will provide patients with iPads and technical assistance if needed.
On Friday, the hospital reported 119 total COVID-19 patients, 29 in the ICU. Nearly all admitted COVID patients are unvaccinated.
According to Fiorica, vaccinated people who are infected are having much milder symptoms or none at all, while unvaccinated patients are having far more severe symptoms in spite of being younger and stronger than patients in the first few waves of the pandemic.
His concern is people who continue to refuse to be vaccinated.
“Sometimes, one-on-one education, trying to dispel some of the myths that are out there, there’s no question that when you go through our ICU and you see some of those patients in there, I think they would wish they could reverse time a little bit,” Fiorica said.
One myth is that the vaccine is unsafe because it was given only emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. But he pointed out the safety of the vaccine had to be fully tested for that level of approval. Full approval involves longer-term data collection for how long the vaccine lasts and whether a booster may eventually be needed. Full approval is not withheld over safety concerns for people receiving the shots.
“It’s more of the long term - when will a booster be needed, when will antibody levels drop - those are the long-term issues that we would like to know what we don’t know right now. But I think that we’re fortunate to have the emergency use for this vaccine or we would be much worse off,” said Fiorica.
He added that mask-wearing, washing hands, and socially distancing, whether vaccinated or not, can still help slow the spread,but vaccination is everyone’s best protection for now.
A week earlier, Sarasota Memorial became one of the first hospitals in the greater Tampa Bay region to change its visitation policy because of the COVID spike, limiting available hours and number of visitors permitted.
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