County’s COVID positivity rises again, to 10.72%

CDC confirms 58 new COVID patient admissions to area hospitals over seven days through March 13

The latest report from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the COVID positivity rate in Sarasota County has climbed above 10% again, for the first time in more than a month.

The rate was 10.72%, averaged over the seven days through March 12, the CDC said. That compares to 8.48% on March 5; 8.14% on Feb. 26; and 8.82% on Feb. 19 — all calculations utilizing seven-day averages.

The most recent report that put the positivity rate above 10% came on Jan. 22, when the CDC noted it was 10.06%.

March typically is the busiest month for tourism in Sarasota County, as indicated by years of Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office reports on “bed tax” collections. (See the related article in this issue.)

Because of problems getting updated data — as CDC staff recently explained to The Washington Post — the CDC reports that The Sarasota News Leaderreviewed on March 16 for Sarasota County had no update about the total number of new cases in the county for the seven days through March 8.

However, the federal agency did note that, over the seven days through March 13, it had confirmed 58 new admissions of COVID patients to hospitals in the county. The number of beds with COVID patients represented 3.3% of the total, the CDC added.

Over the seven days through March 6, the CDC confirmed the admission of 56 new COVID patients to county hospitals, representing 3.2% of all of the available beds.

Those figures compare to the Feb. 27 CDC update, which noted 45 new COVID patient admissions over the seven days through that date.

Additionally, the March 13 CDC chart showed that 2.9% of all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in the county were occupied by COVID patients — again, reflecting data collected over the seven days through that date. That was up from the 1.8% figure in the CDC’s March 6 chart. Still, the new number was well below the 4.3% figure in the CDC’s Feb. 27 report.

Given the climb in new hospital admissions, the CDC elevated the county’s COVID transmission level from “Low” to “Medium,” as shown on March 16. After a “Medium” classification in the CDC’s March 2 status update for the county, the level fell to “Low” in the CDC’s March 9 report.

The News Leader’s review of Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) COVID updates since March 10 found slightly higher figures once more, as well, compared to those noted the previous week.

On March 10, SMH reported a total of 38 COVID patients at its campuses in Sarasota and Venice. That total had climbed to 48 by March 13. As of March 16, the tally was 43.

Still, the health care system has had mostly just one or two patients in its ICUs on a given day between March 10 and March 16. The highest count was four, recorded on March 12. No COVID patients were in ICU beds at the SMH facilities on March 15.

SMH also recorded another COVID patient death over the past week. The total for the health care system since the first pandemic cases were identified in the county, in March 2020, was 769 as of March 14.

In its latest chart — representing seven days of data through March 8 — the CDC put the number of new deaths in the county below 10, without citing a figure.

In other details, SMH reported that its positivity rate for all patients for the week ending March 10 was 7.8%. However, that figure had declined to 7.3% on March 16.

Yet another update on the CDC’s website did come in the form of the weekly Florida counties map, reflecting data collected from March 2 through March 8. Along with Sarasota County, DeSoto and Charlotte counties were elevated to the “Medium” transmission level.

Those were the only three counties in Southwest or South Florida with that designation.

Additionally, the new map returned the swath of counties in north-central Florida to the “Medium” level, after the CDC had elevated them to “High” status in its March 2 map. That group of counties includes Hamilton, Columbia, Alachua, Dixie and Levy.