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Tallahassee Bracing For More COVID-19 Cases, Hospitals Take Precaution

Mark O'Bryant, CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (left), and the hospital's Chief Integration Officer Dean Watson, give an update on efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tallahassee March 19, 2020.
Mark O'Bryant, CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (left), and the hospital's Chief Integration Officer Dean Watson, give an update on efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tallahassee March 19, 2020.
Mark O'Bryant, CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (left), and the hospital's Chief Integration Officer Dean Watson, give an update on efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tallahassee March 19, 2020.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
Mark O'Bryant, CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (left), and the hospital's Chief Integration Officer Dean Watson, give an update on efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tallahassee March 19, 2020.

On Wednesday night, two Leon County hospitals reported the first three confirmed cases of coronavirus in the area. One of those people, a woman transferred from a Georgia hospital, died. The community now braces itself for more cases.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey stood alongside Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare officials as they gave an update Thursday morning on efforts to mitigate spread of coronavirus, and on the first confirmed cases.

“Look, we knew that this day was coming, when we would have confirmed cases in Tallahassee,” Dailey said. “And that’s why it is so important, all the steps we have been taking over the past couple weeks, to make sure this community is prepared.”

The Florida Department of Health says the deceased was a 48-year-old resident of Georgia. The woman was transported to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare from another hospital to get a higher level of care at TMH.

Dean Watson, TMH’s chief integration officer, says the hospital that transferred the woman hadn’t advised TMH she was infected with COVID-19.

“This patient was transferred to TMH, the screening process there was not complete information, being received by the other facility. The patient arrived. Our team … screened that patient when they were arriving and locked them down for isolation,” Watson told reporters.

The other two confirmed cases were seen at the Capital Regional Medical Center’s free-standing emergency rooms. One of those people was instructed to self-isolate at home, the other admitted to CRMC’s main hospital where they remain isolated. They are a 55-year-old male and 58-year-old female. Leon County Health Officer Claudia Blackburn says the agency is tracing individuals who may have had contact with the new cases, and are at risk of infection.

Chad Moore, director of clinical operations for Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare (left), shows a swab used to collect samples for testing to detect COVID-19. TMH chief integration officer Dean Watson looks on.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
Chad Moore, director of clinical operations for Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare (left), shows a swab used to collect samples for testing to detect COVID-19. TMH chief integration officer Dean Watson looks on.

Meanwhile, TMH CEO Mark O-Bryant is putting elective surgeries on hold in anticipation of more local COVID-19 cases.

“At this point in time we’ve basically cut back on elective surgeries to maintain supplies that we think we might be able to use for COVID patients, in case we do have a big outbreak in our community,” O’Bryant said.

TMH was on its second day of running a drive-through sample collection site for COVID-19 testing.

The Northwood Centre location collected about 70 samples in its first day, and the turnaround time for testing results is five to seven days. Tests done on inpatients at the hospital can return results in about a day.

People who feel they need to go to the drive-through need to call their primary care provider to get authorization to do so.

Chad Moore is executive director of clinical operations at TMH. He says people who don’t have a primary doctor can call a line set up by the hospital to get the go-ahead.

“You can call our transition center to be able to speak with a provider and get that necessary prescription to be able to come to this property for collection,” Moore said.

The number for TMH’s transition center is 850-431-4470.

As more cases are expected to surface, officials urge caution now more than ever. Watson told reporters he fears there are still some who don’t recognize the gravity of what’s been declared a pandemic.

“As a physician, and what we’ve seen - I’m very worried about it,” Watson said. “I think people are not taking this seriously enough, and I think they need to.”

The drive-through sample collection site is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.