Bay Area hospitals restrict visitors as Florida breaks records for COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Over the weekend, Florida broke two coronavirus records: highest number of reported cases in a day and highest number of hospitalizations per capita. With cases on the rise, local hospitals are taking steps to keep their patients and staff safe.

Starting Monday, Sarasota Memorial Hospital will shift to a no-visitor policy as they begin to see more patients sick with COVID-19, but there are exceptions in "extraordinary circumstances such as end-of-life situations." Most hospital patients, including those in the ICU, can have a maximum of two visitors per day. The full policy can be found here

On Friday, SMH saw 115 COVID-positive patients with 29 of them being treated in the ICU.

BayCare announced Monday it was tightening visitation rules at 14 locations and altering some services at Hillsborough County locations due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Starting Tuesday, patients will be allowed one adult visitor per day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m and all visitors must wear masks, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Emergency room patients may have one visitor wait with them, as social distancing capacity allows. But if emergency waiting rooms become too crowded, visitors will be asked to wait in their vehicle until their patient is placed in a treatment room.

All elective procedures have been paused at BayCare's six hospitals in Hillsborough County. In Polk County, Winter Haven, Winter Haven Women’s hospitals, and Bartow Medical Center are continuing to pause elective procedures that require an overnight stay in an inpatient bed. There are no changes in elective procedure scheduling at BayCare’s hospitals in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

AdventHealth officials said they are also seeing an increase in COVID hospitalizations in Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. Also starting Monday, AdventHealth Wesley Chapel will temporarily postpone some non-urgent elective procedures that require an overnight stay.

MORE: Florida leads nation in per capita COVID-19 hospitalizations

AdventHealth hospitals in Polk County will also be changing their visitation policy. Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 will now only be allowed virtual visits, but there are exceptions made for children and dire situations. Other hospital patients will be allowed one or two visitors per day.

The following goes into effect Monday, August 2, at all AdventHealth hospitals in the Central Florida division, including those in Polk County: 

  • COVID-19 positive — virtual visits
  • Non-COVID-19 patients — one visitor at a time
  • Obstetrics and pediatric patients — two visitors at a time
  • Under 18 – COVID-19 positive patients — two adult caregivers at a time
  • OB COVID-19 positive symptomatic — C-Section — two visitors a day, no visitors in OR

At Tampa General Hospital, no changes have been made to their visitation policy. However, their website states that over 90% of their beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. As of Monday morning, they have about 111 patients sick with the virus and 56 patients being treated in the ICU.

In Manatee County, Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Inpatient Nursing Units and the ER, and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center’s Inpatient Nursing Units will not be allowing patient visitation starting Tuesday, until further notice. There are some limited exceptions. Visit or for details.

James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa is also temporarily suspending all inpatient visitation. 

"Additional guests are not allowed to accompany Veterans to appointments," according to the hospital website. "Exceptions may be made for end-of-life or other concerns on a case-by-case basis. If exceptions are made, no one under the age of 18 is permitted. No visitors are allowed on COVID units, in Community Living Centers (CLC), or other inpatient, residential units,"

RELATED: Models show coming spike in Florida COVID-19 cases will far exceed January surge

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Florida is now leading the nation in per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19. As of Sunday, there were more than 10,200 people being treated for COVID in hospitals.

The previous record was set back in July of last year. Right now, some hospitals around the state report having to put emergency room visitors in beds in hallways.

READ: Florida leads nation in per capita COVID-19 hospitalizations

Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner is pleading with Floridians to get vaccinated as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread. Just under 50% of Florida’s eligible population has been vaccinated.

"If you are unvaccinated I am speaking directly to you. Get the shot today and mask up until you're fully vaccinated," Nikki Fried said. "These vaccines are safe and some of the most effective vaccines and modern medicine, they are continuing to provide fully vaccinated individuals a high degree of protection against severe illness, hospitalizations and death."