County’s COVID-19 positivity rate for period of July 16-22 up to 11.9%, state reports

Sarasota Memorial Hospital seeing rise in number of patients, with most in their 30s and 40s, chief medical officer says

This graph in a county report released on July 29 shows the changes in the seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 in Sarasota County. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County’s COVID-19 positivity rate for the week of July 16-22 rose to 11.9%, the Florida Department of Health has reported.

On July 21, the 14-day rate was 9.02%, G. Steve Huard, the public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota), told The Sarasota News Leader.

Exactly one week earlier, on July 14, the 14-day average was 5.43%, county Health Officer Chuck Henry told the County Commission.

Overall, as of July 22, state data show that 274,774 — or about 60% — of the approximately 441,000 county residents had been fully vaccinated. (The Florida Department of Health says the county has 441,179 residents. However, a federal report puts the figure at slightly more than 419,000.)

That latest state report also noted that 34,258 COVID-19 cases had been identified in the county, with 899 added in the seven-day period ending on July 22.

Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center said that, as of July 28, the total number of confirmed Sarasota County cases was 35,856. The university added that the number of deaths since the pandemic began was 844 as of the same date.

This is data for Sarasota County as of July 28. Image courtesy Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

Moreover, the university’s resource center ranked Miami-Dade County fourth on its Top 25 Confirmed Cases by County list in its July 28 report. The total for Miami-Dade was 533,821.

Broward County was in 15th place, with 262,319, while Palm Beach County was in 21st place, with 159,598. Orange County, Florida, was in 23rd place, with 157,801, followed by Hillsborough County with 156,969.

Thus, Florida had five of the top 25 counties nationwide in terms of identified cases.

Sarasota Memorial seeing more COVID patients

As of July 29, Sarasota Memorial Hospital was reporting 95 COVID-19 patients, up from 92 the previous day.

The hospital had a total of 52 people in its Intensive Care Unit (ICU), an increase from 47 on July 28. Of those in the ICU, the hospital added, 23 were positive for COVID-19, up from 21 the previous day.

SMH has a 62-bed capacity in its ICU, the hospital notes.

The Sarasota Memorial complex is on U.S. 41 in Sarasota. Photo courtesy Sarasota Memorial Health Care

Moreover, the hospital reported, as of July 29, its patient census was 737; SMH has 839 beds, its website says.

In the state COVID-19 report for the week of July 16-22 — the latest available prior to the News Leader’s publication deadline this week — the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the state was 73,199. Additionally, 78 deaths were reported for that period.

The report for the week of June 18 showed 11,797 new cases. By the week of July 9, the figure had jumped to 45,584.

Dr. James Fiorica. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital

During an interview via Zoom that Sarasota Memorial released on the afternoon of July 29, Dr. James Fiorica, the chief medical officer of the SMH Health Care System, pointed out that the ICU had no COVID patients a month ago. “We definitely are in pandemic mode right now,” he added.

“This fourth surge is different,” he continued. “It’s predominantly unvaccinated patients that are sick,” he said, and most of those that SMH is treating are in their 30s and 40s.

A year ago, Fiorica pointed out, staff was seeing mostly older patients.

“We do have more options [for treating COVID-19 patients],” he continued. “We’re more experienced, more prepared than a year ago.”
Nonetheless, he stressed that the patients in the facility are sick.

In the past, Fiorica also noted, deaths of COVID patients typically lagged onset of illness by about three weeks. However, he said, he hopes the younger people will be able to fight off their infections more readily, because their immune systems should be stronger.

This is the Sarasota County ‘heat map’ as of July 28, showing case counts over the past 14 days, by zip code. Image courtesy Sarasota County via Facebook

“Now the goal is how do we get the people vaccinated” who have not had shots, Fiorica said. That is the primary way to prevent infection, he emphasized.

DOH-Sarasota offers COVID-19 vaccinations, with no appointment necessary, at its locations in downtown Sarasota and in North Port, Public Information Officer Huard continues to remind the public. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 2200 Ringling Blvd. in Sarasota and at 6950 Outlook Way in North Port.

Vaccines also are available at multiple community outlets, which can be located at, Huard further notes.

Anyone wanting more information may call 941-861-2883.

This graphic provides more details for Sarasota County for the period of July 16-22. Image from the Florida Department of Health via Sarasota County

Additionally, the drive-through COVID-19 testing site remains open at the former Sarasota Kennel Club, which is located at 5400 Old Bradenton Road in Sarasota (34234). “This site is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will test anyone regardless of symptoms,” DOH-Sarasota points out.

Last month, Dr. Fiorica noted in the SMH video, the hospital treated slightly fewer than 190 COVID patients, and only 17 of them were vaccinated. He indicated that a number of the latter had other health issues that made them more susceptible to the virus.

Generally, he said, those who became ill who had been vaccinated had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

Fiorica also stressed that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks, noting, “Certainly, Florida’s a high-risk area.”

Further, he advised people to practice social distancing and thorough hand washing.

SMH visiting hours adjusted

“Due to the continuing steep rise in COVID-19 cases,” SMH announced that, as of July 27, it has reduced visiting hours and limited the number of patient visitors allowed.

Visiting hours are noon to 6 p.m. each day in areas where visitors are permitted, the hospital website says.

“We will continue to monitor COVID-19 indicators to determine whether future adjustments are needed,” the website adds.

“Note that all visitors must wear a mask and be at least 16 years old,” the website advises the public. Visitors must check in with greeters upon entry to the hospital, the website adds. Visitors also are expected to also check out before departing SMH, the website points out.

“No one should visit a hospital patient if they do not feel well or have any symptoms of respiratory illness,” it emphasizes.