County’s COVID positivity rate down again, to 8.14%

Case load up about 6%, compared to previous seven-day average, CDC says

Sarasota County’s COVID positivity rate has inched down again this week, falling to 8.14%, as indicated by the average of seven days of data through Feb. 26, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.

The Feb. 19 average was 8.82%, The Sarasota News Leader noted in its Feb. 24 issue.

Three weeks ago, the CDC’s data put the figure at 11.14%.

Nonetheless, the number of new COVID cases in the county climbed a bit in the federal agency’s latest report for Sarasota County. The figure was 304, reflecting seven days of data through Feb. 22. That is up about 6%, compared to the total of 287 cases recorded over the seven days through Feb. 15. Still, the latest total is lower than the Feb. 8 tally of 320 cases.

Over the seven days through Feb. 22, the number of new COVID cases averaged 70.09 per 100,000 county residents, the CDC pointed out. The CDC had calculated 66.17 cases per 100,000 people in the county, based on seven days of data through Feb. 15.

Yet, another positive figure in the latest CDC data was the total number of patients with confirmed COVID cases who had been admitted to hospitals in the county over the seven days through Feb. 27. That was 45. The seven-day figure through Feb. 20 was 50.

Further, the CDC reported that the data it had collected over the seven days through Feb. 27 showed that the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients reflected 3.1% of the county’s total. That figure was unchanged from the Feb. 20 calculation.

On the flip side, the percentage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in county hospitals occupied by COVID patients was down, as shown in the Feb. 27 CDC chart. The figure was 4.3%, compared to the calculation of 5.4% in the CDC’s Feb. 20 chart.

The federal agency’s calculation for the seven days through Feb. 13 put the figure at 4.8%.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) tallies over the past week have shown consistently lower numbers of COVID patients receiving care at the health care system’s campuses in Sarasota and Venice. The highest number on a given day was 51, recorded on Feb. 28. The lowest was 34, on Feb. 27. As of March 2 — the last date for which SMH data was available prior to the publication of this issue of the News Leader — SMH had 43 COVID patients at its two campuses.

Over the previous week, the highest COVID patient tally for SMH was 55, recorded on Feb. 20. On Feb. 23 the total had declined to 49.

Additionally, SMH has reported consistently fewer COVID patients in its ICUs over the past week. The highest count was four, on Feb. 24. From Feb. 27 through March 2, the health care system had no more than two COVID patients in ICU beds.

Among other data, SMH noted that its COVID positivity rate for all patients on March 2 was 6.7%. The level for the week ending Feb. 24 was 6.8%, SMH said.

For the week ending Feb. 17, the positivity rate was 6.4%.

The latest CDC data also showed only 12 deaths recorded in the county over the seven days through Feb. 22. In its Feb. 15 report, the CDC indicated the figure was less than 10, though it noted that the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee has suppressed reporting of deaths to the federal government from time to time since March 2022.

SMH did record one more COVID patient death over the past week, bringing the total to 768 since the first pandemic cases were identified in the county in March 2020. SMH noted the new figure as of Feb. 26.

Among other facets of the most recent CDC reporting, the agency has put Sarasota County back in the “Medium” transmission category, as indicated by data it had received from Feb. 16 through Feb. 22. The previous week’s data shifted the county to the “Low” level. CDC calculations have shown the county with no rating higher than “Medium” over the past several weeks, as the News Leader has reported.

The CDC’s Feb. 23 map showing the transmission levels of all 67 Florida counties put none of them in a category higher than “Medium.” In Southwest Florida, DeSoto and Charlotte counties joined Sarasota County with that classification.

In previous weeks, the CDC had continued to mark a swath of counties from just south of the Georgia border to the Gulf coast south of the Panhandle as having “High” transmission levels. That group of 10 counties included Hamilton, Columbia, Alachua, Dixie and Levy. Yet, even those were marked with “Medium” transmission in the Feb. 23 map.

The vast majority of the counties were in the “Low” category.