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Sarasota Memorial Hospital sees rise in COVID-19 patients

The hospital has 36 patients with COVID-19, including seven in intensive care. Health professionals say serious issues remain limited almost exclusively to unvaccinated individuals.

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  • | 3:30 p.m. July 19, 2021
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There are 36 hospitalized patients at Sarasota Memorial Hospital with COVID-19, including seven in the intensive care unit — a notable increase from one month ago, the hospital said.

The hospital shared an update today with information on local COVID-19 trends and commentary from Manuel Gordillo, Sarasota Memorial’s medical director of infection prevention and control. The hospital said it had single-digit COVID-19 cases a month ago, and zero patients in the ICU with the disease.

Gordillo said health officials witnessed a quickly shifting situation after that point.

“It rapidly escalates,” Gordillo said. “Over a period of about two weeks, two and a half, three weeks, we've gone from three patients in the hospital to the current upper-30s.”

In a video Sarasota Memorial Hospital shared, Manuel Gordillo said officials need to continue outreach efforts to get persuadable members of the public vaccinated. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
In a video Sarasota Memorial Hospital shared, Manuel Gordillo said officials need to continue outreach efforts to get persuadable members of the public vaccinated. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

The hospital said the majority of hospitalizations are among individuals who have not been fully vaccinated, which is in line with national data. Of nearly 100 admitted patients with COVID-19 at SMH, six were a “breakthrough infection” of individuals who had completed a series of vaccinations at least 14 days prior to testing positive.

The hospital said many of the admitted patients are younger than those hospitalized in 2020 and early 2021, including some patients in their 30s. Gordillo said locally, more than 80% of senior citizens have received both vaccinations, but older individuals who are unvaccinated remain the population most vulnerable to severe effects from COVID-19.

“Basically, this has transformed into the epidemic of the unvaccinated,” Gordillo said.

Gordillo said an increase in cases is occurring across Florida, and he said the hospital believes the more-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is contributing to that phenomenon in Sarasota. In the week ending July 15, the Florida Department of Health reported 504 new cases in Sarasota County at a positivity rate of 8.6%. In the week ending June 17, the state reported 95 new local cases at a 1.9% positivity rate.

Earlier today, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan announced he tested positive for COVID-19. Buchanan said he was fully vaccinated and that he was experiencing very mild symptoms.

In addition to the increased transmissibility of the delta variant, Gordillo said increased social interaction without measures such as distancing and mask usage — particularly indoors — is contributing to the rising numbers.

“This is the perfect setting for the virus,” Gordillo said.

Gordillo stressed the importance of vaccination as a strategy to limit the effects of COVID-19 across the community. To date, Sarasota has 272,503 individuals with at least one vaccine dose. That’s 68% of the county’s above-12 population, tied for the third-highest rate in the state. 

Sarasota has increased its vaccination numbers by less than 3% in the past month, and Gordillo joined other local health professionals who expressed concerns about a plateauing vaccination rate.

“We know we have the tools to protect people,” Gordillo said. “This infection has been made largely preventable — if not fully preventable, at least it will prevent you from ending up in the hospital or dying, going to the morgue. So it’s very, very frustrating when you see a lot of vaccine out there not going into people’s arms.”

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County is offering walk-in vaccinations from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at its downtown Sarasota office, located at 2200 Ringling Blvd. More information related to COVID-19, including vaccine and testing availability, is on the health department website and Sarasota County website.


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