TAMPA — About 55 staff members at Tampa General Hospital have been infected with COVID-19 since March, president and CEO John Couris said Thursday.
The majority contracted the virus outside the hospital, but at least six staffers are thought to have come into contact with the disease while in the hospital, Couris said.
Those findings, he said, were determined through contact tracing, an investigative process that helps locate the source of an active infection and how it is spreading.
All have been sent home to quarantine for 14 days and must be free of all symptoms for a week before returning to work. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients has remained stable, with about 25 in the hospital this week, Couris said.
“We don’t have a problem inside the walls of our institution,” he added. “It’s out in the community.”
Tampa General is the region’s largest hospital with about 1,000 beds.
As Florida reopens, some residents aren’t following recommendations to social distance, wash their hands regularly and wear masks in public, Couris said. And that’s why he believes hospital employees are sick.
The increase in infections came slowly, in time with local businesses and restaurants welcoming back patrons, Couris said. “We knew we were going to see more cases,” he added. “This is to be expected to a degree.”
Tampa General staff members, as well as visitors, are screened every day upon entering the hospital, Couris said. They’re tested for the coronavirus only if they are exhibiting symptoms or believe they’ve come into contact with someone who has it.
Most staff members are responsible, he said. Now with the spike, he’s asking them to be even more cautious while off the clock. But that only goes so far.
“They could be doing everything right and they could run into somebody who isn’t doing anything right,” Couris said.
He said the community shouldn’t worry that Tampa General is unsafe due to the spread among staff. People who are sick should still seek medical attention when needed, and the hospital has plenty of room to take on more COVID-19 patients.
According to the state’s online dashboard of available hospital beds, Tampa General had 277 available beds as of 8:08 p.m. Thursday. In the intensive care unit, 12 of 126 beds were available.
“Don’t avoid going to the hospital because you think you’re going to get COVID,” Couris said. “I would argue that hospitals are one of the safest places to be.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information from Tampa General Hospital.
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