COVID-19 cases jump 195.5% in Sarasota County the last full week of December, state reports, with total hospitalized at Sarasota Memorial up almost four-fold since mid-December

CDC puts county positivity level at 22.72% as of Jan. 6

This is the latest graphic provided by the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee to show the trend in COVID-19 cases in Sarasota County, through Dec. 30, 2021. Image courtesy Florida Department of Health

From Dec. 24 to Dec. 30, 2021, Sarasota County experienced a 195.5% jump in the number of COVID-19 cases, compared to the previous week’s data recorded by the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee.

The total for that last full week of December was 2,748, the state Health Department announced. Altogether, since the first COVID-19 case in Florida was identified in the county on March 1, 2020, Sarasota County has had 60,423 cases verified, the state Health Department noted in its latest report.

The positivity rate in the county for the period of Dec. 24 to Dec. 30 was 16.5%, the state added. That was up 9.8 points from the previous seven-day period, the department said.

Since early June, the Florida Department of Health has issued COVID-19 data just once a week.

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Jan. 6 that the county’s positivity rate was 22.72%. The CDC noted that that figure was up 10.8% from the rate for the previous seven-day period.

On Dec. 16, the county’s positivity rate was 3.29%, the CDC reported then, with a case rate of 56.02, averaged for the seven days through Dec. 16, 2021.

Thus, the Jan. 6 positivity rate was almost seven times higher than the Dec. 16 mark.

Additionally, in the seven days through Jan. 6, the CDC said, 2,768 new cases had been recorded in Sarasota County. The case rate per 100,000 population was 638.17 for that period, the CDC added.

Moreover, the CDC noted that 123 new hospital admissions of patients infected with COVID-19 had been reported to it over the seven days through Jan. 6.

This is the Jan. 6 CDC report for Sarasota County. Image courtesy CDC

On Dec. 17, 2021, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) announced that it had 24 COVID patients, five of whom were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

By Jan. 3, the total was close to four times higher, at 90, with 11 of them in the ICU.

By Jan. 6, the total had jumped another 34% to 121. In fact, just a day earlier — on Jan. 5 — SMH reported 104 COVID-19 patients.

Additionally on Jan. 6, the count of COVID-19 patients in the ICU had climbed to 16.

For comparison purposes, SMH had 136 COVID-19 patients on Aug. 3, when the Delta variant surge was underway; of those, 62 were in the ICU.

Further, as of Jan. 6, SMH had recorded 537 COVID-19 patient deaths since the start of the pandemic. Still, that figure is only five higher than the 532 total of deaths reported on Dec. 16.

This is the Dec. 20, 2021 COVID-19 patient report from Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Image courtesy SMH
This is the Jan 3, 2022 COVID-19 patient report from Sarasota Memorial Hospital — the first since the New Year’s holiday weekend. Image courtesy SMH

Dr. Manual Gordillo, the hospital’s medical director of infection prevention and control, noted in a Jan. 6 video, “Omicron has taken over for Delta,” referring to the latest mutation of the virus.

However, he pointed out, because of the high level of vaccinated people, plus those who previously were infected in Sarasota County, patients are experiencing far less serious symptoms than they did during the Delta surge.

Nonetheless, Gordillo continued, “All of us have to be concerned about the rapidity of the spread [of the Omicron variant]. If you’re unvaccinated, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, for your community, is to get vaccinated.”

He acknowledged that, based on statistics he had seen, 10% of the county’s residents ultimately will refuse to be immunized. “Those folks are going to be infected,” he continued. “This virus specializes in finding [those who are not vaccinated]. … It finds the easy ones.”

Dr. Manuel Gordillo. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital

In response to a staff question posed during the video interview, Gordillo did note that the vast majority of the COVID-19 patients in the hospital were admitted because of infection by the virus, not because they came to the facility for treatment of other problems and found out they had Omicron after being tested, per hospital protocol. In fact, he said, when he checked the ICU patients the previous night, all of them had been admitted because they had contracted the virus.

As of Jan. 6, the CDC reported that 67.6% of the entire county population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 80.1% had had at least one dose. The highest level of full vaccination was for persons age 65 and older: 90%. For those ages 5 and up — all of whom are eligible for vaccination — the figure is 70%, the CDC said.

Further, the number of county residents who had had COVID boosters, in addition to completing their full vaccination course, was 124,529 on Jan. 6. That number represents 42.5% of the total county population, the CDC reported.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) continues to offer doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to persons at its offices in downtown Sarasota (2200 Ringling Blvd., 34237) and in North Port (6950 Outreach Way, 34287).

No appointments are necessary. The North Port office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Sarasota facility stays open past 4 p.m. — until 6 p.m. — on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week.

This is the vaccination data for Sarasota County as shown on the CDC website on Jan. 6. Image courtesy CDC

Testing sites remain open

DOH-Sarasota is reminding the public that three testing sites are available in Sarasota County:

  • The former Sarasota Kennel Club, located at 5400 Old Bradenton Road in Sarasota. This drive-through site is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,offering rapid and PCR COVID-19 testing. This site is operated by Nomi Health.
  • Robert L. Taylor Community Complex parking lot, located at 1845 34th St. in Sarasota. This walk-up site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.PCR COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services.
  • Dallas White Park, located at 5900 Greenwood Ave. in North Port. This walk-up site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.PCR COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services.
  • Ed Smith Stadium parking lot, located at 2700 12thSt. in Sarasota. This drive-through COVID-19 testing site offers PCR testing onlyand operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This site is operated by Real Diagnostics.

SCAT drivers test positive

Photo courtesy of Sarasota County

This week, DOH-Sarasota confirmed positive COVID-19 test results for three Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) drivers, it announced.

In consultation with DOH-Sarasota, SCAT identified the following routes that were operated by the first affected driver:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 — Route 2 from 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 — Route 99 from 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The other two affected drivers handled the following routes:

  • Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021 — Route 1 from 5:25 a.m. to noon.
  • Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 — Route 1 from 5:25 a.m. to noon.
  • Monday, Jan. 3 — Route 6 from 2 to 10 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 4 — Route 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

DOH-Sarasota is recommending that any persons who rode these routes on the dates listed should monitor themselves for possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Any passengers who suspect they have been exposed or who feel symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their health care providers or DOH-Sarasota, or to visit one of the free testing sites noted above, DOH-Sarasota said in a news release.

Because of a federal mandate, all SCAT riders are required to wear masks, a county news release points out. If someone has COVID-19 symptoms, that individual should do not use SCAT services, the release adds.

Further, in accordance with operational procedures, “SCAT buses are thoroughly sanitized nightly,” the release says.

SCAT bus operators have been provided face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer,” the release notes.