COVID-19 positivity rate declines to 10.6% for county

Case count up about 13% over seven days through Dec. 7

The COVID-19 positivity rate for Sarasota County declined over the past week — to 10.6%, compared to 11.32% in the Dec. 4 report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nonetheless, the CDC noted an increase in the number of county cases over the seven days through Dec. 7. The total was 302. In its Nov. 30 report, the CDC cited 267. Thus, the new figure is up about 13%, compared to the number for the previous seven days.

Further, in its Dec. 15 status update for Sarasota County, the CDC reported that the case rate per 100,000 people, averaged over the seven days through that date, was 69.63. That also marked an increase. The Dec. 8 status update put the figure at 61.56 per 100,000 county residents.

On the flip side, the CDC estimated in its Dec. 12 report — using seven days of data — that new admissions of COVID-19 patients to county hospitals added up to 52. That was down from the figure of 60 in its Dec. 5 update.

The CDC added in that Dec. 12 report that it had confirmed that the new COVID-19 patient admissions over the previous seven days represented 12 per 100,000 residents in the county. That figure also was down, as the Dec. 5 report put the number at 13.8.

Nonetheless, the federal agency noted that, based on data it had received for the seven days through Dec. 15, it had determined that 3.6% of the county’s hospital beds were in use by COVID patients. That was up slightly, compared to the Dec. 8 figure of 3.2%.

In the Dec. 1 report, the CDC said that 3.9% of all county hospital beds were in use by COVID patients.

A much higher increase reflected by the latest seven days of data pertained to COVID patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). That figure, in the CDC’s Dec. 12 report, was 4.8%. The seven-day average that the CDC noted on Dec. 5 was 3.3%. However, the CDC pointed out that its ICU figure on Dec. 12 was up only 1.4% from its previous seven-day calculation.

In its reports over the past week, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) said it had no more than 56 COVID patients on a given day, divided between its Sarasota and Venice campuses. That figure was in its Dec. 15 update; only two of those patients were in an ICU.

The highest daily total SMH staff reported for the previous week was 58, on Dec. 5, and six of those were in the ICUs.

Between Dec. 9 and Dec. 15, the health care system’s lowest daily COVID patient count was 51.

The largest number of COVID patients in the health care system’s ICUs on a single day over the past week was six, recorded on Dec. 12.

SMH did report two more deaths this week, bringing its total for COVID patients to 740 since the first pandemic cases were identified in the county in March 2020.

The CDC’s seven days of data through Dec. 7 found fewer than 10 deaths in the county, the agency said, but the weekly death rate per 100,000 county residents once again was marked as “suppressed.” The latter comment reflects changes in COVID-19 reporting provided by the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee. The CDC often uses the comment “suppressed” in regard to COVID death reporting for Sarasota County, based on the state’s handling of the data.

Among other SMH data, the health care system reported that the COVID-19 positivity rate among all of its patients was 6.9% for the week ending Dec. 9. For the week ending Dec. 2, the rate was 6.7%.

The SMH patient rate on Dec. 15 was 7.7%. That was the highest figure for a given day, going back to Dec. 9.

Risk of contracting COVID and flu rising nationally

In related news, The New York Times reported on Dec. 12 that, while COVID “no longer plays the dominant role that it once did in most of our lives,” the risk of contracting COVID “— and other viruses — persists. This winter,” the Times continued, “experts expect cases, hospitalizations and deaths from viral diseases to rise once again.”
In fact, the Times noted, that increase already might have begun. The newspaper added that COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are up over the past two weeks.”

“The upswing resembles the trend we have seen in recent years after Thanksgiving, typically continuing through the holiday season and into the following year,” the Timessaid.
It pointed out that flu cases are up, as well, with the CDC classifying “the vast majority of states as having ‘high’ or ‘very high’ activity for the flu and related illnesses.”

Yet, a Dec. 7 report in the Naples Daily News said, “Florida has the lowest flu immunization rate among states and recent progress isn’t keeping pace with a national uptick in the vaccination rate, according to an independent analysis of federal data.”

As for COVID-19 vaccinations in Sarasota County, the CDC showed on its website on Dec. 15 that 72.3% of the total population had completed the primary series of vaccinations against the coronavirus. The figure for those 65 and older was 95%.

Nonetheless, the CDC noted, only 30% of those 65 and older had received the new bivalent booster dose that became available in late summer.

On Dec. 15, the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reported that it had confirmed 99,769,439 COVID-19 cases in the United States since the outbreak began. It also had confirmed 1,086,608 deaths, the center’s homepage showed.

Further, the Resource Center reported a total of 7,270,410 COVID cases in Florida as of Dec. 15, with 83,201 deaths.

As for the latest CDC map showing COVID transmission levels for Florida counties, Sarasota County, Charlotte and DeSoto counties remained at the “Medium” level, reflecting calculations of data from Nov. 30 through Dec. 6.

Again, the same cluster of counties in the north-central part of the state had a “Medium” classification. All other counties were put at the “Low” level.