COVID-19 positivity rate dips to 10.35%, but Sarasota Memorial admissions exceed 60 in one report this week

Latest CDC data for the county a mix of trends

Although the patient censuses at Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s two campuses were trending slightly higher over the past week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted a bit lower COVID-19 positivity rate for the county as of the seven-day average through Dec. 17.

The positivity rate dipped to 10.35%, the CDC said, compared to the 10.6% figure the agency reported for the seven-day average through Dec. 11.

However, the CDC noted a higher case rate per 100,000 county residents, averaged over the seven days through Dec. 14. That was 74.24, which, the agency said, was up 6.62%, compared to the previous seven-day figure.

In its Dec. 15 weekly status update for Sarasota County, the CDC put the case rate at 69.63 per 100,000 county residents. That had marked a slight climb from the figure of 61.56 cases per 100,000 people in the Dec. 8 weekly update.

The status report is released on Thursdays. The Sarasota News Leader had a Wednesday deadline for this issue; therefore the new weekly update was unavailable.

Among other recent CDC data, the estimated number of new hospital admissions for the seven days through Dec. 18 was 53. The agency noted that it had confirmed 12.3 patients with COVID-19 had been admitted per 100,000 people in the county during the same period. That figure represented a 4.7% drop from the previous seven-day number, the CDC added.

For the seven days through Dec. 12 — as the News Leader reported last week — the CDC had put the admissions of new COVID-19 patients to county hospitals at 12 per 100,000 county residents. That was down from the 13.8 figure shown in the Dec. 5 data.

Further, the Dec. 18 CDC report said the number of staffed beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in county hospitals for the seven days through that date represented 3.8% of the total. That figure was up slightly, as well; the seven-day report through Dec. 15 was 3.6%.

Yet, the number of beds COVID-19 patients occupied in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) throughout the county represented 4.5% of the total for the seven days through Dec. 18, the CDC added. That marked a decline from the Dec. 12 figure of 4.8%.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) data from Dec. 16 through Dec. 21 showed that the highest number of COVID-19 patients being treated at its Sarasota and Venice facilities on a given day was 61. That was noted on Dec. 20. The lowest figure for that period was 53, on Dec. 16.

By Dec. 21, the total had declined to 59, SMH reported.

The highest number of COVID-19 patients in the health care system’s ICUs was seven, also recorded on Dec. 20. The next day — Dec. 21 — the figure was down to four. The latter number remained the same in every other weekday update from Dec. 16 through Dec. 21 except for Dec. 20.

Further, through Dec. 21, SMH had reported no more deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total since the first pandemic cases were identified in March 2020 remained at 740, which SMH noted last week.

Among other details: On Dec. 21, the health care system said the positivity rate of all patients as of that day was 7%. For the week ending Dec. 16, SMH added, the rate was 7.8%.

In additional data on the CDC website on Dec. 21, the agency did report a slight uptick in the number of county residents age 65 and older who had received one of the new bivalent vaccines. That had risen to 31.4%, compared to the 30% figure the agency noted on Dec. 15.

In an article published on Dec. 16, The Washington Post reported that the latest research on the effectiveness of those bivalent boosters showed that they cut the risk of emergency room visits and hospitalizations by 50% or more.

The newspaper cited as its source two new reports that the CDC had released that day, regarding the updated boosters from Pfizer and Moderna.

The article quoted Jeanne Marrazzo, director of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in response to those reports: “ ‘Pretty amazing that both studies could show a significant (and in older adults, quite substantial!) effect so quickly, given that the vaccine wasn’t even available till Sept. 1,’ she wrote in an email.”

Nonetheless, The Post pointed out, only about 14% of Americans age 5 and up had received one of those bivalent boosters, based on data available at that time.

In Sarasota County, the Dec. 21 CDC vaccination chart showed that 16.3% of all residents age 5 and older had received a bivalent booster.

However, the Dec. 21 CDC chart also noted that only 72.3% of all county residents had completed the primary COVID-19 vaccination series. The figure for county residents age 65 and up who had completed the initial series was 95%.

Finally, the latest map of Florida posted on the CDC website prior to publication of this issue — reflecting the COVID-19 transmission level for each county — represented calculations from Dec. 7 through Dec. 13, the agency said.

The map showed that more counties had joined Sarasota and the swath in the north-central part of the state at the “Medium” level.

In Southwest Florida, Lee and Collier counties were added, while DeSoto and Charlotte counties remained at “Medium” status. Farther south, Hendry and Miami-Dade also had joined that group.

Additionally, Osceola County, close to the East Coast, was classified with “Medium” transmission.

No county was listed with a level above “Medium.”