Sarasota Memorial Hospital campuses record another 15 COVID-19 deaths in past week

Number of new infections falling, but county positivity rate at 25.85%, CDC says, based on seven-day average through Feb. 10

This is the Feb. 9 ‘heat map’ produced by Sarasota County staff in collaboration with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County. It shows the numbers of new cases, by zip code, over the two-week period through Feb. 9. Image courtesy Sarasota County and DOH-Sarasota, via Facebook

Even though Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 patient census between its two campuses has continued to trend mostly downward over the past week, the number of deaths has continued to climb.

On Feb. 3, The Sarasota News Leader reported that Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) had counted a total of 597 deaths since the first coronavirus patient was identified in Florida — in Sarasota County — in March 2020. As of Feb. 10, SMH noted in its update that day, the total was 612. In other words, 15 more people infected with COVID-19 had died over the seven-day period.

Sarasota County data provided to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the seven days through Feb. 8 showed a total of 47 deaths in the county, which was up 840% from the figure for the previous seven-day period.

Additionally, on Feb. 3, SMH had 174 coronavirus patients in its Sarasota and Venice facilities. The total number on Feb. 10 was 151. For that matter, as of Feb. 4, the figure already had fallen to 164.

The number of COVID patients in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) on Feb. 10 was 21, SMH pointed out. On Feb. 3, the figure was 27. By Feb. 6, the total had declined to 19, but the count was back up to 22 on Feb. 8.

This is the Feb. 10 report for Sarasota County, as shown on the CDC website. Image courtesy CDC

In a Feb. 4 video interview, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, SMH’s infectious diseases specialist, noted that, at the peak of the recent Omicron surge, which began in December 2021, the two campuses had about 220 patients altogether. Referring to the latest data, he said, “We’d like to see a further decrease, but we’re happy with any decrease.”

And even though the Omicron variant has not produced symptoms as severe as those resulting from the Delta variant, he stressed that the adjective he would use was “milder,” not “mild.” The Delta surge, Gordillo added, “was so incredibly destructive.”

Gordillo further noted that Omicron had affected “a lot of our own health care workers” and their family members. Over the past month or so, he said, almost 1,000 of SMH’s employees had been sick, making it impossible for them to work until they had cleared the infection.

Sarasota County Government’s 2021 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report put the total number of SMH workers at 4,619. The health care system is the second-largest employer in the county, a chart showed, exceeded only by the Sarasota County School District.

Gordillo also addressed the newer “stealth” variation of Omicron, which first was detected in South Africa, Australia and Canada, according to The Guardian. Gordillo pointed out that it is “very contagious,” even more so than the original version of Omicron, “if you can believe that.” Nonetheless, he said, it thus far has not proven more lethal, and COVID-19 vaccines have protected people against it.

“I would not be surprised that, in a month or a month-and-a-half, it becomes the most prevalent [COVID-19 strain in the United States],” Gordillo added.

In regard to the latest Sarasota County report posted by the CDC prior to the News Leader’s publication deadline this week, the COVID-19 positivity rate averaged over the seven days through Feb. 10 was 25.85%. That is down only slightly from the 27.87% average the CDC reported for the county on Feb. 3.

However, while the case rate for the seven days through Feb. 3 was 873.33 per 100,000 county residents, the case rate as of the seven-day average through Feb. 10 was 752.29 per 100,000 people, a drop of about 16%, the CDC noted.

For the period of Jan. 28 through Feb. 3, the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee said that Sarasota County had recorded another 3,246 infections. That compared to 3,788 for the previous seven-day period.

For the seven days through Feb. 8, the CDC said the total number of new Sarasota County COVID-19 cases was 3,263; that was about 16% lower, as well, compared to the state’s figure released on Feb. 4.

This is a graphic reflecting COVID-19 statistics for the state and the county, through the period of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Since early June, the state Health Department has been releasing COVID-19 reports only once a week, on Fridays.

Altogether, according to the state Health Department’s Feb. 3 update, Sarasota County had counted 84,059 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

As for vaccinations: On Feb. 10, the CDC said that 68.7% of the total county population had been fully vaccinated. The age group with the highest percentage — 90.6% — remains the one with persons 65 and older.

Of individuals age 5 and up, 71.2% were fully vaccinated, the CDC noted.

Additionally, the CDC’s Feb. 10 report showed that 46.9% of fully vaccinated county residents had had a booster by that date. Again, those age 65 and up had the highest percentage — 58.7%.

Image courtesy CDC

Testing sites

The following testing sites are available in Sarasota County, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) reminds the public:

  • The former Sarasota Kennel Club, located at 5400 Old Bradenton Road in Sarasota. This walk-up 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. 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. PCR COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services.
  • Ed Smith Stadium parking lot, located at 2700 12th St. in Sarasota. This drive-through COVID-19 testing site offers PCR testing only and operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This site is operated by Real Diagnostics.
  • Venice Community Center, located at 326 Nokomis Ave. S. in Venice. This drive-through site is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PCR COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services.

Vaccination availability update

This is the latest booster data for Sarasota County, based on reports provided to the CDC. Image courtesy CDC

Public health officials continue to stress that vaccinations and boosters are the best means of preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19.

DOH-Sarasota offers 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.