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Four employees at Tampa General Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, the hospital confirmed late Wednesday.
The employees work in clinical and non-clinical roles, hospital officials said.
Tampa General employs more than 8,000 people.
“As we expected, we are seeing more community spread of COVID-19,” the hospital said in a statement. “Because our team members are also part of the community, they are no exception.”
The hospital said the employees had been sent home to self-isolate for up to two weeks and that each would have to be free of symptoms and have two negative COVID-19 tests before returning to work. The Florida Department of Health had been notified, it added.
“It is our understanding that these team members were exposed to COVID-19 either through community spread or travel,” the statement from the hospital said. “We are following appropriate CDC guidelines for contact tracing of any employee who tests positive.”
As the coronavirus epidemic accelerates in the United States, experts have expressed concerns about the health and safety of frontline workers in health clinics and hospitals.
The virus is believed to be more contagious than the flu, and health care facilities nationwide have faced shortages of personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns.
Other health care systems in the Tampa Bay area declined to say Wednesday whether any of their employees had tested positive.
A spokeswoman for the BayCare system — which includes St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa — said she could not comment on “employees’ health and well-being.”
The Florida Orthopaedic Institute said it closed eight of its offices and surgery centers in Hillsborough County and Wesley Chapel last week after learning a doctor tested positive for the virus.
The facility said that all of the patients and employees who had been potentially exposed were notified and put under a 14-day quarantine as a precaution.
“Rest assured that all potential parties have been contacted,” the institute wrote on its webpage. “If you have not received a phone call, there is nothing else for you to do at this time.”
In Sarasota, a physician at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and one at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota have tested positive. And in Miami, an employee who didn’t directly work with patients at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital tested positive.
Elsewhere in the country, dozens of doctors and nurses have contracted the virus. At a nursing home that was the epicenter of the virus in Washington state, nearly four dozen employees tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Washington Post. In California, a single case led more than 200 hospital employees to quarantine.
Still, concern about losing the work of vital healthcare workers has prompted some public health departments, including the one in New York City, to recommend employees keep working, even if they have high-risk exposure to someone with coronavirus.
Doctors in Italy, France and China have died after contracting coronavirus.
In Spain, nearly 14 percent of the country’s 40,000 positive cases are from healthcare workers, according to published reports.
Tampa General said Wednesday that all COVID-19 patients were being placed in negative pressure isolation rooms in a specific unit of the hospital and that their caregivers had been fitted for and trained in the use of personal protective equipment.
The hospital also said it had tightened its employee screening process in recent weeks and now has a team member testing clinic on its campus. Hospital administrators and support staff who can work remotely are being asked to do so.
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