COVID-19 cases continuing to mark downward trend

CDC says county positivity rate down to 8.54%, averaged over seven days through Sept. 26

This is the Sarasota County ‘heat map’ for Sept. 29, showing the numbers of new COVID-19 cases by zip code over the previous 14 days. Image courtesy Sarasota County and the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County

The number of COVID-19 patients under care at Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) has continued to drop over the past week, and Sarasota County’s positivity rate had fallen to 8.54%, averaged over the seven days through Sept. 26, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

On Sept. 30, the CDC website also showed that 62.3% of the county’s total population had been fully vaccinated against the virus, while 73.4% of residents have had at least one dose.

On Sept. 24, Sarasota Memorial had 137 COVID-19 patients, it noted that day; 54 were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

It also reported 45 patients who originally were under care for COVID but who had cleared the infection; those persons remained hospitalized because of complications.

Of the 83 total patients in the ICU on Sept. 24, 20 were clear of COVID but dealing with complications, SMH pointed out.

The capacity of the ICU stood at 90 that day.

The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 at the hospital as of Sept. 24 was 464, SMH reported.

As of Sept. 30, the hospital had just 97 COVID patients, it noted, a 41% drop from the Sept. 24 number. In fact, just a day earlier — on Sept. 29 — SMH had 111 COVID-19 patients.

However, it also reported on Sept. 30 that staff was caring for 34 persons who no longer were infected but still hospitalized because of complications from the virus.

Additionally, on Sept. 30, 53 of the 88 individuals in the ICU had COVID, while another 18 in that unit previously had had COVID and were dealing with complications.

The hospital staff did increase the ICU capacity to 104 beds as of Sept. 28, that day’s update showed.

Altogether, 88 patients were in the ICU on Sept. 30.

Additionally, as of Sept. 30, SMH’s COVID death total was 478, up from 472 the previous day. Thus, 14 more people had died of COVID in the hospital since Sept. 24.

On the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System Facebook page on Sept. 29, the hospital provided its weekly COVID graphic update. As of that day, 93 of the 111 COVID patients in the hospital were unvaccinated; 45 of the 51 COVID patients in the ICU were unvaccinated; and 39 of the 42 patients on ventilators were unvaccinated, SMH pointed out.

This is the Sarasota Memorial Hospital COVID-19 patient data as of Sept. 29. Image courtesy SMH

Sarasota Memorial Hospital announced on Sept. 30 that it is “cautiously re-opening its doors to allow limited patient visitation. The hospital also resumed non-emergency surgeries this week.”

“The new visiting guidelines go into effect on Friday, Oct. 1,” a news release said. That date is nearly two months after the fourth wave of the pandemic forced the health care system to limit visitors in the hospital and suspend elective and non-emergency surgeries, the release added.

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

“Having friends and family members at the bedside is an important part of the healing process,” said Sarasota Memorial Hospital-Sarasota Campus President Lorrie Liang in the release. “Now that the transmission rate of the virus has declined in our region, we felt we could gradually increase the number of visitors and surgeries, while keeping universal masking and pandemic protocols in place to protect our patients and staff.”

In general, visitors must be 16 or older, the release noted. They may visit persons between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Most inpatients may have up to two visitors at a time at the bedside and visitors, the release added. “Certain departments, including the Mother-Baby Unit, Critical Care and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, have department-specific guidelines; people should check with the unit before visiting,” the release said.

“Surgical, procedural and testing patients may have one support person accompany them and that person must remain in designated waiting areas,” it added.

“SMH is still restricting visitors for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, with exceptions for extraordinary circumstances such as end-of-life situations,” the release pointed out. SMH’s Bayside Center for Behavioral Health will allow visitation by appointment only. Caregivers should call 941-917-7760, the release said.

State data and more details from the CDC

In its latest weekly update — for the period of Sept. 17-23 — the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee noted that the number of new COVID-19 cases in the county was 1,011, down by 422 from the previous reporting period.

For the seven days through Sept. 29, the CDC said the county case rate had fallen 30.48% from the previous seven-day total. However, the CDC also noted that the death rate for the seven days through Sept. 29 was up 109.68% from the count for the previous seven-day period.

The CDC continued to classify Sarasota County’s transmission rate as High.

This is the vaccination data for Sarasota County as shown on the CDC website on Sept. 30. Image courtesy CDC

Altogether, the state data through Sept. 23 showed that the county had reported 53,676 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

This is the graphic showing COVID-19 data as of the state’s latest report, issued on Sept. 24. Image courtesy Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County continues to offer Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines at its facilities located at 2200 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota and at 6950 Outreach Way in North Port.

No appointments are necessary. The hours for the offices are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

Additionally, COVID-19 vaccines are available at multiple community outlets. To find the nearest location, visit