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Tampa General Hospital Team Shows Businesses How To Stem Coronavirus Spread


A team of infectious disease prevention experts from Tampa General Hospital is helping local businesses develop plans to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus as numbers continue to spike in Florida and across the country.

The Prevention Response Outreach Team has already consulted with Tampa Electric, the Straz Center for Performing Arts, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Aquarium, and more recently, the Florida Senate, which is preparing for the upcoming 2021 legislative session.

Steven Chew, senior administrator of orthopedics, neurosciences and infectious disease at TGH, said the team includes physicians, epidemiologists and industrial hygienists. But they pull in specialists from all backgrounds depending on which business they’re working with.

Plans vary based on what a business wants, how many people are going to be there, how a building is structured – a lot of variables.

“It's not just handing over a sheet of paper or handing over a one-page glossy document that says, ‘hey, here's how to be safe;’ it is very individualized to each and every client, because everyone is different,” Chew said

Peggy Thompson, a registered nurse and director of infection prevention at TGH said it typically starts with a site visit.

“If I'm having to touch common surfaces as I'm going in, I'm looking for hand sanitizer,” Thompson said. “I'm looking to see if the area is likely to have face-to-face interaction - what can we do to mitigate that? Is there an opportunity to create a unidirectional flow?”

“We look at everything from sink placement, water, fountains, break rooms, high risk areas, where people are going to try to congregate and eat and drink and take their masks off. Commonly touched objects in those areas.”

They also educate employees on proper mask-wearing and handwashing techniques.

Florida has had more than 820,000 COVID-19 cases, and more than 17,000 deaths.

Thompson sees the team’s work extending far beyond the current pandemic.

“I've been in the field of infection prevention for a number of years,” Thompson said. “I have seen many threats come and go; more than I wish I had seen in my lifetime.”

She said the coronavirus won’t be the last large-scale event public health officials and communities have to contend with. And in the meantime, there are always smaller outbreaks of diseases like Hepatitis A and salmonella, both common in restaurant settings.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.