19 COVID deaths reported at Sarasota Memorial from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2

Doctors continue to urge vaccination as best protection against serious illness and hospitalization

Editor’s note: This article was updated shortly after noon on Sept. 3 to correct the figure that Sarasota Memorial Hospital reported for the number of COVID-positive patients on Sept. 2. SMH announced in its Sept. 3 report that it provided the wrong figure for Sept. 2.

This is the Sept. 1 Sarasota County ‘heat map,” showing new COVID-19 cases over the previous 14 days, by zip code. Image courtesy Sarasota County via Facebook

Since Aug. 27, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has reported 19 deaths from COVID-19, its patient census reports show.

The hospital also has been expanding its Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity over the past week, as noted in those updates. On Aug. 31, the ICU had 114 beds; on Sept. 1, the number rose to 120.

The ICU census has declined, nonetheless, as this week has gone on — from 110 patients on Aug. 30 to 106 by Sept. 2, the updates show. Of those on Sept. 2, 69 were suffering with COVID-19.

On Aug. 27, 58 ICU patients at Sarasota Memorial had the virus, that report said.

The total number of COVID-positive patients also dropped from 265 on Sept. 1 to 253 on Sept. 2.

Altogether, SMH reported on Sept. 2, 83% of its COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, which was unchanged from the Sept. 1 and Aug. 31 figures.

Dr. Manuel Gordillo. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital

During an Aug. 18 video interview that SMH provided to the news media, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, the hospital’s infectious disease specialist, explained that most of the so-called “breakthrough” cases he has seen in vaccinated patients are among the elderly and individuals whose immune systems are more compromised because of underlying health issues, which are termed “co-morbidities.”

The virus tries to find people that it can infect more readily, he pointed out. “The virus is smart. … It knows where to go. It will find the easiest target …”

Gordillo stressed that the vast majority of the COVID patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. Those also are the ones who are suffering with a higher degree of illness — and dying, he said. They typically need more oxygen treatments and often end up having to be put on ventilators to help them breathe.

Generally, Gordillo added, patients with COVID who are vaccinated have milder cases.

During that interview with Allison Gottermeier, the health care system’s multi-media producer, Gordillo pointed out, “The hospital’s busting at the seams.” That day, he said, it had 250 patients with COVID, and their age range was wide — from 30 to the upper 90s.

The hospital’s most recent Facebook post about COVID-19 patient statistics — dated Aug. 30 — noted that nearly half the patients “are age 59 and younger, including 75 patients who are in their 20s, 30s or 40s …” Five were younger than 20, the post said.

For the period of Aug. 24-30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to put Sarasota County in its “High” category for community transmission of the virus. That is one step down from the worst category, “Substantial,” as county Health Officer Chuck Henry reported to the Venice City Council last week.

For the seven days through Aug. 31, the CDC added, the county had 3,371 new cases, which worked out to 777.19 per 100,000 residents.

For the seven days through Aug. 24, the figure was 659.15 cases per 100,000 residents.

And while the positivity level was at 19.29% for the seven days through Aug. 22, the seven-day figure through Aug. 29 was 18.69%, the CDC noted.

These are statistics the CDC was reporting on its website on Sept. 2, for Sarasota County. Image from the CDC

Sarasota County’s weekly COVID-19 update, issued on Sept. 1, pointed out that the Florida Department of Health data for the week of Aug. 20-26 showed 603 new cases since the previous week’s report.

However, it also pointed out that 3,196 more people were vaccinated against the virus between Aug. 20 and Aug. 26. The previous week’s report said 3,342 had been vaccinated between Aug. 13 and Aug. 19.

CDC data through Aug. 31 noted that 71.5% of county residents had received at least one dose of vaccine; the total who were fully vaccinated — age 12 and up — represented 59.3% of the population. The CDC also said that 83.6% of persons age 65 and older had been fully vaccinated.

In Sarasota County, the Health Department offers the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with no appointment necessary, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at its offices located at 2200 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota and at 6950 Outreach Way in North Port.

Additionally, COVID-19 vaccines are available at multiple community outlets. To find the nearest location, visit www.vaccines.gov.

These are vaccination data for Sarasota County, as shown on the CDC website on Sept. 2.

Emergency room waits

With a number of hospitals in Florida reporting long emergency room waits for patients with problems other than COVID, The Sarasota News Leader this week asked about the situations that Sarasota Memorial and Doctors Hospital of Sarasota are experiencing.

The News Leader specifically asked about wait times for persons reporting suspected heart attacks and strokes.

Gottermeier of SMH provided this statement on Aug. 30: “While Sarasota Memorial is feeling the severe strain of the unprecedented surge in COVID-19 patients, we have not changed our protocols for triaging and treating patients who arrive with serious, non-COVID emergencies, including stroke and heart attack patients. With the rise in COVID-19 cases, we are trying to encourage the community to know when it’s time to seek immediate medical care, and provided this video blog to help: https://www.smh.com/blog/covid-19-recovery-at-home-a-how-to-guide. We also have a general guide on when to seek emergency care versus visiting an urgent care center or reaching out to your physician: https://smhurgentcare.com/urgent-care-vs-er/.”

Asked the same question, Monica Yadav, the spokesperson for Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, responded as follows: “We appreciate the community support as we work through this current surge. While wait times in our emergency room have been longer than normal at times, our caregivers are working as quickly as possible to treat patients while still maintaining high levels of quality care the community knows us for.”

As of 12:14 p.m. on Sept. 2, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota was showing an average ER wait time of 8 minutes. The hospital provides regular ER wait time updates on its website.

This is the state Health Department data for Sarasota County for the week of Aug. 20-26. Image from the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee

Recovering from COVID-19 at home

“There’s no cure for COVID-19,” SMH notes on its website. Treatment “must focus on getting rest, keeping the illness from worsening and alleviating symptoms,” an SMH blog says.

The hospital offers recommendations, below, for recovery at home:

Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital
These are warning signs that should prompt a hospital visit, Sarasota Memorial Hospital staff says. Image courtesy SMH

Sarasota County COVID-19 testing centers

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County reminds the public that four testing facilities are available in the community: 

  • Former Sarasota Kennel Club, located at 5400 Old Bradenton Road in Sarasota. This drive-through site is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,offering rapid and PCR COVID-19 testing. This site is operated by Nomi Health. It will be closed Labor Day.
  • Robert L. Taylor Community Complex parking lot, located at 1845 34th St. in Sarasota. This walk-up site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.PCR and rapid COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services. It also will be closed for Labor Day.
  • Dallas White Park, located at 5900 Greenwood Ave. in North Port. This walk-up site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. PCR and rapid COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services. It will be closed on Labor Day.
  • Ed Smith Stadium parking lot, located at 2700 12th St. in Sarasota. This drive-through COVID-19 testing site will offer PCR testing onlyand will operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This site is operated by Real Diagnostics, and CDR Maguire. It will be open on Labor Day.

All four sites will test anyone regardless of symptoms, the Health Department points out, and testing is free.

Because of current demand, the Health Department warns, it may take up to 48 hours to get results.

“All individuals being tested MUST register with the COVID testing site that will be testing them,” the department stresses.

Testing also is available at CVS, Walgreens, America’s Pharmacy, Ellenton Urgent Care and Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care Centers.