ATLANTA — Hospitals are getting some of the sickest COVID-19 patients. They are adapting by taking intense precautions and using protocols to keep the virus contained in specific areas. Despite all of the efforts, hospitals are also a place the virus can spread.
On June 22, Shaun Smith tested negative for COVID-19 at Piedmont Hospital. It was the green light his doctors needed before he could undergo colon surgery the next day. Eight days into recovery post surgery, he took a turn.
"I had got really sick. I was running a fever," he said. "I was throwing up everywhere. It was not a good scene."
He was tested for COVID again. Within 30 minutes, Smith learned he was infected with the virus.
"I was kind of shocked because I couldn’t pin point where I had caught it from," he said.
Just 44 days before coming into Piedmont Hospital, Smith was under quarantine after previously testing positive for the virus.
“If it happens I think it would be a very rare event. I don’t think it would happen commonly," said Dr. Sujatha Reddy who treats patients at Northside Hospital.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from May 14 to June 21, hospitals across the country identified 5,142 patients who were infected with coronavirus inside a hospital. The reporting is voluntary and only 60 percent of hospitals participate, which means the number is likely higher. The number does not include hospital staff infected.
Protocols are in place at hospitals like Northside which requires masks in all buildings and COVID-19 patients are treated in an isolated area of the hospital.
“I think your risk is far greater out in the community than it is in the hospital,” said Reddy.
Piedmont Hospital, where Shaun Smith had his surgery, confirms it has seen a spike in "potential COVID-19 positive cases" among employees, but did not provide information on patients.