'Bursting at the seams': Sarasota doctor urges mask-wearing to relieve strain on hospital

Zac Anderson
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

With Sarasota Memorial Hospital “bursting at the seams” amid a flood of COVID-19 patients, the hospital’s infectious disease expert is urging the public to take precautions such as wearing masks indoors in crowded places to limit the spread of the virus.

“Go back to the basics, masks indoors, get a good mask,” Sarasota Memorial Dr. Manuel Gordillo said in an interview released Thursday.

Gordillo also continued to push vaccination and urged those who qualify for a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to “go and get it now.”

Dr. Manuel Gordillo, an infectious disease specialist, offered advice to local residents about the omicron variant in a video released Thursday.

About 3% of the U.S. population, those who or moderately or severely immune compromised, are approved for the third dose. A vaccine booster for the wider population is expected to be approved in September, Gordillo said.

Gordillo emphasized how effective the vaccines are at preventing serious illness and death.

Sarasota Memorial had 249 COVID-19 patients Thursday, down slightly from 250 Wednesday. Among those patients 86% are unvaccinated.

From Wednesday:Sarasota Memorial Hospital's COVID-19 patient count keeps growing

More:Sarasota Memorial expands ICU to 100 beds Tuesday as COVID patient count hits another record

“The vast majority of the patients are unvaccinated and those are the ones that are dying and those are the ones that are getting sicker…,” Gordillo said. “They end up needing more oxygen, needing to be transferred to the intensive care unit, being on a ventilator and dying.”

Stressing that Florida’s hospitals are facing an urgent situation, Gordillo said the public needs to go back to the COVID-19 mitigation measures that were more prevalent last year, especially wearing masks indoors.

“Right now hospitals in Florida are under tremendous stress and we need to do everything that we can to restore the ability of our health care system to operate more normally,” Gordillo said.

Having a high-quality mask is important, Gordillo added. Some masks may not be as effective against the more infectious delta variant.

"Maybe in the past we did not emphasize that," Gordillo said. "Get the best quality mask. Perhaps those other masks that we were complacent with are not as good for delta."

Sarasota Memorial Hospital had 249 COVID-19 patients Thursday.

Along with many hospitals across Florida, Sarasota Memorial is experiencing an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 patients that has shattered the record from previous waves of infection.

Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton had 79 COVID-19 patients Thursday, while Lakewood Ranch Medical Center had 55.

Sarasota Memorial still has nearly double the number of COVID-19 patients than the previous high point before the latest wave of cases.

The hospital has postponed elective surgeries to free up staff and space for COVID-19 patients.