Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is urging residents to follow simple precautions to prevent from getting COVID-19 because of how quickly it can spread.
The mayor held a press conference Thursday morning with health care representatives to address how they’re preparing for the disease and how people can protect themselves.
“We know that the emphasis on this particular virus is the ease with which it is spread,” said Castor. “That is our concern.”
Castor said those that are not in the high risk categories - the elderly or those with compromising health conditions - are not at a great risk if you catch the virus.
Castor asked people to get the latest information from sources such as the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention, the Hillsborough County Health Department, State Emergency Management, or the City of Tampa website that provides information in English and Spanish.
READ MORE: Coronavirus Coverage on WUSF
Dr. Peter Charvat, Chief Medical Officer of St. Joseph’s Hospital, said their efforts are centered around communication and preparation. They are preparing by ensuring their supply chain and having enough personal protective equipment for staff and physicians.
While St. Joseph’s and BayCare are offering multiple locations for people to seek treatment or answers, they’re also offering another choice.
“We have hospitals, urgent care centers, primary care, but one option I really want to encourage the public to access is telehealth,“ said Charvat. “We have a 24/7 availabilty telehealth platform through BayCareAnywhere.”
The telehealth option can be downloaded as an app onto a phone or tablet, or through a computer at BayCareAnywhere.org. Patients can receive a virtual doctor visit from their home or work. It is considered a low cost-option that should be used by those in a non-emergency condition in order to avoid contact with COVID-19.
“We recommend that patients who have primary care providers, first call your primary care provider to help direct you to an appropriate point of care,” said Charvat. “Keep in mind telehealth is a good option, so that we’re not bringing a patient who might potentially have an infectious disease into our hospital unnecessarily. We really need to save the emergency departments for patients that have really acute emergent conditions.”
John Couris, President and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, stated that they have created a pandemic plan with three phases based on an increase in patients:
- Phase one: any patient who presents symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in their ER will be placed in an isolation room where they are evaluated and tested.
- Phase two: patients will be placed in a contained unit for evaluation and admission.
- Phase three: contain patients on their campus in a designated outdoor area. They will also use their sister unit if there is overflow.
“In an effort to keep our team members, physicians, and patients safe, we are limiting visitor access including taking measures to decrease the number of entrances into our hospital,” said Couris. “As recommended by the CDC, visitors who are ill or who have traveled to China, South Korea, Italy, or Iran within the last 14 days are not permitted into the hospital.”
Dr. Rainer Chan, Medical Director of AdventHealth, and Dr. Douglas Holt, Director of the Hillsborough County Department of Health, talked about test kits for COVID-19. They are working on testing protocols that follow CDC and Florida Department of Health guidelines before disseminating the information to their providers. They are also trying to expand access to the tests.
READ MORE: Daily Coronavirus Coverage on WUSF
City officials are also encouraging residents to text TAMPAREADY or TAMPALISTA to 888-777 to receive real-time text alerts.
AdventHealth has set up a 24/7 hotline for general questions about COVID-19 in order to free up the Florida Department of Health’s phone line. Their hotline can be reached at 877-VIRUSHQ where callers will speak directly to nurses and be directed to the CDC or the Florida Department of Health as necessary.
If none of the other resources can help, the Florida Department of Health has a 24/7 call center at 1-866-799-6121.