County’s COVID positivity rate back up a bit, to 8.48%

Fewer Sarasota Memorial COVID patients in ICU beds over past week

Sarasota County’s COVID positivity rate has inched up to 8.48%, as shown in the latest data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, the federal agency this week adjusted the county’s transmission level once more to “Low.” As The Sarasota News Leader reported last week, the CDC’s March 2 status report characterized the county as having “Medium” transmission.

The new positivity figure represents data collected over the seven days through March 5, the CDC notes. The prior CDC report, reflecting data gathered over the seven days through Feb. 26, put the positivity rate at 8.14%. However, the latest figure is still below the seven-day calculation through Feb. 19, which was 8.82%.

As Sarasota County tourism leaders have pointed out — and records maintained by the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office have demonstrated through the years — March typically is the busiest tourism month in the county, with spring break visitors, especially, coming from many parts of the United States.

The CDC also reported that its latest tally of new COVID cases in the county — reflecting data recorded over the seven days through March 1 — showed the total was 287. That averaged out to 66.17 cases per 100,000 residents, the CDC pointed out. Both of those figures were lower than the numbers the News Leader reported last week, on the basis of the seven days of data that the CDC had collected through Feb. 22. The total number of cases in that prior report was 304, reflecting an average of 70.09 cases per 100,000 county residents.

Thus, the latest case total is down almost 6%, compared to the Feb. 22 figure.

In terms of hospitalizations: The CDC reported that, over the seven days through March 6, it had confirmed the admissions of 56 new COVID patients. Altogether, patients diagnosed with the coronavirus were using 3.2% of all county hospital beds, the March 6 chart showed.

In its Feb. 27 report, the agency noted that 45 new COVID patients had been admitted to hospitals in the county and that 3.1% of all hospital beds were in use by COVID patients.

The CDC’s seven-day tally of new COVID patients through Feb. 20 was 50.

On the positive side in the latest reports, the number of COVID patients in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in the county dropped from 4.3%, as shown in the CDC’s Feb. 27 report, to 1.8% in the March 6 chart. Again, those calculations are based on seven days of data.

In its latest report on COVID patient deaths in the county, the CDC said its records for the seven days through March 1 put the number at less than 10. However, that chart noted — as the agency does from time to time — that the death data had been suppressed. In March 2022, as the News Leader has reported, the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee began releasing the latest COVID statistics every other weeks, instead of making them available on a more regular basis, as it did in the initial phase of the pandemic.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) has continued to report generally lower COVID patient totals for its Sarasota and Venice campuses over the past week.

The highest number the News Leader found on a given day since March 3 was 46, on March 6. By March 9, the total was 38, SMH noted.

From Feb. 27 through March 2, the highest patient count on a given day was 51, cited on Feb. 28; the lowest, 34, came on Feb. 27.

Additionally, the tally of COVID patients in the health care system’s ICU beds also fell over the past week — reflecting the latest CDC data. Only one COVID patient was in an SMH ICU bed on every day for which data was available except March 7, when the number was two. (The News Leader did not have access to the numbers tallied on Sunday, March 5; occasionally, SMH staff does not post a daily report, and that was the case on March 6. The Monday updates also include Sunday figures.)

SMH records over the past week showed no new COVID patient deaths. The total for the health care system since the first pandemic cases were identified in the county, in March 2020, remained 768.

Among other SMH data: The positivity rate for all patients as of March 9 was 7%. That compared to the calculation of 6.7% for the week ending March 3. On March 7, SMH noted that its overall positivity rate was 6.5%.

The latest CDC data regarding COVID transmission levels countywide in Florida — representing data recorded from Feb. 23 through March 1 — showed more counties with the “Medium” classification. Additionally, the swath of counties in the north-central part of the state that often has been marked with “High” transmission levels in recent weeks shifted back to “High” in the new map. The Feb. 23 map had put them in the “Medium” category.

That group of counties includes Hamilton, Columbia, Alachua, Levy and Dixie.

The Feb. 23 map also classified DeSoto and Charlotte counties as having “Medium” transmission levels, along with Sarasota County. The March 2 map showed them marked with “Low” levels.

Among the counties whose transmission levels were elevated from “Low” to “Medium” in the March 2 map were Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk.