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Sarasota Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Discusses Vaccine Myths as "No Visitor" Policy Begins

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Sarasota Memorial Hospital
Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fiorica, Sarasota Memorial Hospital

Starting Monday, August 2nd, Sarasota Memorial Hospital will institute a "no visitors" policy with limited exceptions in an effort to protect patients and staff from rising cases of COVID-19.

“We know how important visitor support is to our patients, but these new restrictions are for everyone’s protection,” said Chief Medical Officer James Fiorica, MD.

According to a news release from the hospital, there will be limited exceptions to the "no visitor" policy; for extraordinary circumstances such as end-of-life care, and limited support persons will be allowed for patients in the Labor & Delivery/Mother-Baby units. Exceptions will also be made for children admitted to the Pediatric Unit or Neonatal Intensive Care Units. A support person also may be permitted to wait in a designated area while patients undergo surgery and certain types of procedures or therapy.

For those who cannot visit, SMH staff will be available to help connect families and friends via video calling apps such as Skype or FaceTime. The hospital will provide patients with iPads and technical assistance if needed.

Meanwhile, 20 more COVID-19 patients have been admitted at Sarasota Memorial since Thursday, bringing the total to 119, twenty-nine of which are in intensive care. Nearly all admitted patients are unvaccinated.

According to Dr. Fiorica, vaccinated people who are infected are having much milder symptoms or none at all while unvaccinated patients are having far more severe symptoms- in spite of being younger and stronger than patients in the first few waves of the pandemic.

His concern is people who continue to refuse to be vaccinated.

“Sometimes one on one education, trying to dispel some of the myths that are out there. Uh, there’s no question that when you go through our ICU and you see some of those patients in there, I think they would wish they could reverse time a little bit,” Dr. Fiorica said.

One prevalent myth is that the vaccine is somehow unsafe because it was given Emergency use approval by the FDA. But he points out the safety of the vaccine had to be fully tested for that level of approval. Full approval involves longer-term data collection for how long the vaccine lasts and whether a booster may eventually be needed. Full approval is not withheld over safety concerns for people receiving the shots.

“It’s more of the long term- when will a booster be needed, when will antibody levels drop...those are the long-term issues that we would like to know what we don’t know right now. But I think that we’re fortunate to have the emergency use for this vaccine or we would be much worse off,” said Dr. Fiorica.

He added that mask-wearing, washing hands, and socially distancing, whether vaccinated or not, can still help slow the spread- but vaccination is everyone’s best protection for now.