New coalition working to ensure public access to outpatient treatments
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Sarasota County has climbed another 14%, the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) show.
The seven-day average through May 15 was 17.39%, the CDC reported. That compares to a positivity rate of 15.19%, based on the seven-day average through May 8, which The Sarasota News Leader noted in its May 13 issue.
The latest positivity rate reported by the CDC is just slightly lower than the 19.47% figure it noted in its Feb. 17 update. That was when the Omicron variant surge was underway. A week later — on Feb. 24 — the rate had fallen to 11.92%. By March 10, it was 5.75%. However, by April 24, it had almost doubled, to 11.43%, averaged over the previous seven days.
The case rate per 100,000 people in the county also rose again this week, to 144.33. That figure is approximately 23% higher than the 117.12 case rate per 100,000 people that the CDC reported on May 12. However, the May 19 case rate is about half of the 289.57 figure that the CDC noted on Feb. 24.
Yet, about two weeks ago — on May 5 — the case rate per 100,000 people was just 95.91, the CDC reported at that time.
On Feb. 24, the CDC ranked Sarasota County’s community transmission level as “High.” On May 19, the rate was marked “Low.”
Further, the CDC’s May 16 report — the latest available prior to the deadline for this issue of the News Leader — put the number of new hospital admissions for the seven days through that date as 55, which marked a 37.7% jump, compared to the total for the previous seven-day tally.
The percentage of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases was 3.2% as of May 16, the CDC said. That was up 0.8%, compared to the previous seven-day figure.
On May 9, the number of hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients in the county represented 2.4% of the total. Thus, the May 16 percentage is a third higher than the May 9 figure.
The percentage of staffed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in use in Sarasota County as of May 16 was 3.7%, the CDC also pointed out. However, that had dropped by 0.2%, compared to the figure for the previous seven days, the agency noted.
In its COVID-19 patient advisories over the past week, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) reported a high of 39 on May 15, with five of those persons in the ICUs in Sarasota and Venice. On May 13, the patient count was 32, with two in the ICUs.
As of May 18, the figure was 35, with, four in the ICUs. On May 19, the total patient count had fallen to 30, with two of those in the ICUs.
To put those numbers in perspective: On Feb. 24, SMH’s update showed 68 COVID-19 patients in Sarasota and Venice, and that had dropped from a total of 80 the previous day. Additionally, on Feb. 24, 13 of the COVID-19 patients were in the ICUs.
SMH did report one more COVID-19 death this week, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 657.
Additionally, on May 19, SMH noted that the positivity rate for patients between its two campuses was 11.3%. That was up close to 18%, compared to the 9.6% figure noted on May 12.
In a video that SMH released to the news media on May 19, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, the health care system’s infectious disease specialist, pointed out, “We’re in a complicated moment in the pandemic. We’re coming out of the huge Omicron wave,” but the number of cases is rising at the two SMH campuses.
On April 22, the hospitals had just 11 patients in Sarasota and Venice.
“This is the time to prepare,” Gordillo pointed out, noting the variant waves with which medical personnel have dealt over the past two years. “I call it the ‘panic-neglect cycle,’” he added. “When the numbers start rising, we panic …”
His principal recommendation is for individuals to make certain they are vaccinated and have had a booster, “especially if you are over 50 and if you are immunocompromised.” For persons in the latter categories, Gordillo emphasized, vaccination “is a must.”
Gordillo also advised members of the public to make certain they are aware of the oral antiviral medications that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for use in COVID patients. “That’s another tool that we have,” he pointed out.
However, he further stressed, those medications do not work if a person fails to begin taking one of them within five days of the onset of infection.
Health care providers uniting to ensure easy access to COVID-19 outpatient treatments
On May 19, SMH’s public relations staff announced that the “Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and its community partners have united to ensure those who need it have access to new antiviral treatments available in the community.”
A news release explains, “The Sarasota County COVID Therapy Coalition formed this spring to make the process less confusing for local residents and care providers — and help prevent severe illness and hospitalization among the elderly and other high-risk individuals during this next phase of the pandemic.”
The announcement quotes Gordillo: “Knowing if patients qualify for any of these potentially lifesaving interventions and how to access them can be confusing, even for physicians.”
“The Sarasota County COVID Therapy Coalition has created a webpage (smh.com/treatcovid) with helpful links, treatment guidelines and physician referral information to help people assess their need, determine eligibility and locate available treatments,” the release continues. The coalition is working to spread the word and ensure that a comprehensive referral network exists for people who have low incomes, who are uninsured or who do have a local doctor to assess their risks and provide the required prescription for treatment, the release explains.
“Paxlovid is highly effective to help reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization in eligible people, and is widely available from Walgreens and CVS pharmacies throughout the region,” the release notes. “For higher risk patients who are unable to receive Paxlovid (e.g., due to a significant interaction with another medication), the monoclonal antibody Bebtelovimab is another possible option. There also is an antibody prevention therapy, Evusheld, available for those who are immunocompromised,” the release says.
To learn more or access the latest information regarding COVID resources in the Suncoast, visit http://www.smh.com/treatcovid.
The COVID Therapy Coalition comprises representatives of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Infectious Disease Associates, Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, CenterPlace Health, Florida Academy of Pas-Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Medical Society, Sarasota County Medical Society, Multicultural Health Institute, Sarasota NAACP, Walgreens – Sarasota, Unidos Now, and the Barancik Foundation, the release adds.