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‘Scary’ How Fast COVID-19 Cases Are Rising, Says Sarasota Hospital CEO

Sarasota Memorial Hospital CEO David Verinder warns that young people are increasingly being hospitalized for COVID-19, and urges people to wear a mask
Sarasota Memorial Hospital Youtube
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The chief executive of Sarasota Memorial Hospital said Friday it’s “scary” how fast COVID-19 cases are rising and that younger patients are increasingly among those hospitalized.

After seeing the number of COVID patients at the hospital dip to eight in May, and even a brief period when the intensive care unit had no COVID patients for a few days, CEO David Verinder said the outlook has worsened.

“Unfortunately, we've seen a rebound in our cases,” he said in a Zoom interview distributed by a hospital spokeswoman.

“We have around 34 (coronavirus) patients in the hospital today, with 10 people being in the ICU. Those numbers in themselves aren't scary. But what's scary is the fact that they've gone up so quickly, so fast. So now we're preparing, you know, for a worsened situation in the organization.”

Florida set another state record for daily coronavirus infections on Saturday, with nearly 10,000 new cases according to the Florida Department of Health. Nearly a third of the state’s total caseload has been reported in the last week alone.

A trend toward younger people testing positive is also continuing, with the median age now 34. And Verinder said while some may feel invincible due to their age, younger patients are making their way into the hospital, too.

“We have definitely had younger people now hospitalized at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and throughout the state and country at a much higher rate than had been before,” Verinder said.

He did not go into detail about how many younger patients are being treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, their ages or conditions.

Even for younger people who do not need to seek hospital care due to coronavirus, “the problem is, if they get it and then they go back and they see their parents or their grandparents, they are absolute spreaders of COVID at that point in time and could make a difficult situation much worse,” he said.

Florida officials said last week that hospitals are prepared for a surgeand are not facing a shortage of ICU beds. 

Verinder urged the public to take precautions, but not panic.

“I think that the community should be concerned,” he said. “We all need to take responsible steps to make sure that we don't have a bigger problem that we can't handle.”

Verinder said it’s important for people to follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks and take their own temperatures daily before they report to work. If it’s over 99 degrees, they should stay home, he said.

“Listen to your officials and scientists that tell you to social distance, to keep a safe distance around you. And wear a mask. Wherever you go, wear a mask. I know that people are uncomfortable. I know it's hot outside. I know it's not something that we're all excited about. But, you know, just wear a mask.”

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.