Take a rare look inside Tampa General Hospital's Global Emerging Diseases Institute

The Global Emerging Diseases Institute at Tampa General Hospital is a specialized unit for treating COVID-19 patients. Media is rarely allowed inside, but on Friday, September 10, FOX 13 was granted access to the packed facility. 

12-hour shifts are the norm for workers at the unit. Staff constantly cycle through full-body PPE as they treat patient after patient. 

"This is the busiest I've ever seen this hospital," said respiratory therapist Cody Horton. "Your lungs take such a hit with this disease."

Some patients spend days in the wing; others spend weeks. Too many only leave after the disease ends their life.

Workers put on PPE at Tampa General Hospital's Global Emerging Diseases Institute

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"For instance, just yesterday, just on one shift, we had two or three deaths yesterday from COVID," said respiratory therapist Marla Cunningham. 

More than 90% of the patients brought to the unit are unvaccinated.

"We're combatting two things: we're combatting misinformation and this virus," Horton said. 

There are rarely slow days. Oxygen tanks sit on standby instead of being stored away. It won't be long until they're needed. 

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For the highly-trained staff, this is just another day. 

"It is not just your life in your hands, it's everyone else's. It's a highly contagious disease," Horton said. "I would recommend everyone get the shot so we can get back to normal as soon as we possibly can."

The Florida Department of Health's weekly report shows there were 2,448 COVID-19 deaths over the last seven days, bringing the state's total near 49,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

An additional 100,249 cases were detected through testing this week.

Florida has seen soaring numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths during the past two months, largely because of the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. 

The report issued Friday showed that nearly 69% of Florida's population had received at least one dose of a two-dose vaccination, but younger Floridians' numbers were still lagging. 

Only 50% of people ages 20 to 29 had received at least one dose, while 52 percent of people ages 12 to 19 had received at least one dose, state data showed.

Tampa General Hospital's Global Emerging Diseases Institute

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.