County COVID-19 positivity rate up to 15.47%

Case count per 100,000 residents rises about 18% from mid-December to Jan. 4

As health officials had anticipated, given the number of family and other gatherings that routinely take place during the holiday season, the COVID-19 positivity rate has climbed in Sarasota County since the start of the New Year.

The figure for the seven days averaged through Sunday, Jan. 8, was 15.47%, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported — the latest number available prior to the publication of this issue of The Sarasota News Leader.

As noted in the News Leader’s final report before Christmas, the seven-day average through Dec. 17, 2022 was 10.35%.

Last year, even though the initial vaccines had been available since the spring of 2021, and the federal government had authorized one booster, the county’s positivity rate was 11.61% as of Jan. 5, 2022, the Florida Department of Health noted at that time. Then the CDC reported that the positivity rate had jumped to 31.95% for the seven-day average through Jan. 13, 2022. The federal agency also had recorded 5,015 cases for the seven days through that date, with 266 hospital admissions.

As of the seven days through Feb. 3, 2022, the CDC’s data showed only a slight fall in the positivity rate: It had declined to 27.87%.

Additionally, the latest 2023 data on the CDC website notes an increase in cases in the county. For the seven days through Jan. 4, the total was 356. That represented 82.08 new cases per 100,000 county residents during that period, the CDC pointed out. The figure was up 2.89%, the agency added, compared to the previous seven-day calculation.

In its Dec. 15, 2022 COVID update for Sarasota County, the CDC noted the case rate was 69.63 per 100,000 residents, averaged over the seven days through that date. Thus, the increase from the Dec. 15, 2022 report to the one on Jan. 4 was nearly 18%.

Further, the federal agency said that the number of hospital beds in the county occupied by COVID-19 patients represented 5.6% of the total available, as indicated by the seven days of data through Jan. 9. The CDC pointed out that that figure had risen 1.7% from the previous seven-day number.

The CDC also noted that it had confirmed 71 new admissions of COVID-19 patients in county hospitals over the seven days through Jan. 9, which represented 16.3 persons per 100,000 county residents. That figure had jumped 13.7%, the agency said, compared to the previous seven-day calculation.

The number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds occupied by COVID-19 patients over the seven days through Jan. 9 represented 4.3% of the county’s total, the CDC reported. However, that figure represented a decline of 0.6%, compared to the data for the previous seven-day figure, the agency pointed out.

From late December through Jan. 11 — the latest date for which the News Leader was able to obtain the information for this issue — Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) had reported no more than 79 COVID-19 patients on a given day. The Jan. 11 number was 75, reflecting the total for both the Sarasota and Venice campuses of the health care system.

Of those 75 individuals, only four were in an ICU, SMH noted.

In comparison, on Nov. 30, 2022, SMH recorded a total of 53 COVID patients in Venice and Sarasota, with three in the ICUs.

By Friday, Dec. 23, 2022 — the last weekday before Christmas — the health care system had only 50 COVID patients, with one in an ICU bed.

As of Dec. 27, 2022, SMH reported a total of 60 COVID patients, with only two receiving ICU care. By Jan. 6, the patient count had climbed to 70, with two in the ICU. Then, on Jan. 8, the total rose to 79, SMH said, with eight in ICU beds.

SMH also reported that its positivity rate for all of its patients for the week ending Dec. 23, 2022 was 7.3%. That rate had climbed to 10% for the week ending on Jan. 6.

Alluding to the reduction in frequency of COVID updates that has been the policy of the Florida Department of Health since March 2022, the CDC also reported that, for the seven-day period through Jan. 4, fewer than 10 deaths were recorded in the county. The CDC characterizes the state’s action as suppression of information.

SMH has reported several more deaths since the News Leader’s last update, on Dec. 23, 2022. Through Jan. 11, the hospital had recorded a total of 750 deaths since the first pandemic cases were identified in Florida — in Sarasota — in March 2020. That figure is up by 10, compared to the total SMH noted in its Dec. 21 report.

As for vaccinations: The CDC’s data for Sarasota County as shown on its website on Jan. 12 said that only 32.5% of residents age 65 and older had received the new bivalent booster, which became available in August 2022 to fight more recent variants of the coronavirus.

For county residents age 18 and up, the number who have received the new booster represented only 18.8% of the total population, the CDC added.

Among other data in the latest CDC reports, a map of Florida showing the transmission level of each of the 67 counties as of Jan. 5 — calculated with information available from Dec. 29, 2022 through Jan. 4 — shows only seven counties classified with “Low” status. Sarasota County continues to carry a “Medium” classification, along with all of the other counties in Southwest Florida.

A number of counties have been elevated to “High” status, including Miami-Dade and a swath in the north-central part of the state that was classified as “Medium” in the latter part of 2022.