Sarasota Memorial isn't facing the challenges it faced in past COVID waves
Sarasota Memorial Hospital is seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, but it isn’t strained in the ways that it was during past infection waves.
SMH reported on Monday that it was treating 68 COVID-19 inpatients, seven of them in the intensive care unit.
Two weeks ago, there were 36 COVID inpatients, including five in the ICU.
“Hospitalizations are increasing at SMH, but our health system is managing the situation without any of the challenges we have faced in previous waves,” SMH public information officer Kim Savage said in an email. “We have ample space, supplies and staffing to care for COVID and non-COVID patients.”
During last summer’s delta wave, Sarasota Memorial had to increase intensive care unit beds several times. SMH infectious disease specialist Dr. Manuel Gordillo said last August that hospitals in Florida were under “tremendous stress,” and asked the public to return to practicing COVID-19 mitigation measures, especially wearing masks indoors.
The current increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations at Sarasota Memorial comes amid a rise in coronavirus cases locally and statewide, driven by subvariants of the omicron variant. The state health department reported 10,113 cases the week starting March 25, a figure that rose to 32,957 by the end of April and 71,797 in late May.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in Sarasota and Manatee counties – along with numerous other counties across the state – wear masks in indoor, public settings.
COVID cases on the rise
Michael Drennon, the disease intervention program manager for FDOH’s Sarasota County office, said the county is experiencing a slow increase in COVID-19 cases.
“It is difficult to tell how long this will last or when a peak or plateau will occur,” he said in an email.
The Florida Department of Health reported 1,454 new COVID-19 cases in Sarasota County for the week of May 27-June 2, which is a 27% increase over two weeks prior.
In Manatee County, FDOH reported 1,168 cases for the week ending last Thursday – a 30% increase over two weeks prior.
Sarasota County’s positivity rate was 17.7% for the week of May 27-June 2; Manatee’s was 17.5%.
Sarasota Memorial's Savage said hospital officials believe the number of COVID cases is “vastly under-reported.” She noted that many people develop mild symptoms and care for themselves at home.
“Fewer are getting tested, and many who are getting tested are using at-home tests and not reporting their results to the state or to their doctors,” she said.
Savage said that for those at the highest risk of developing severe disease, SMH recommends that they ask their doctor if they qualify for the preventive therapy Evusheld.
Savage recommends that everyone else prepare ahead of time and know what steps to take if symptoms develop. Oral antivirals for COVID-19 are available by prescription at many pharmacies, she said. These pills can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, but they must begin the treatment within five days of their first symptom. To learn more about treatments for COVID-19, visit smh.com/treatcovid.
Gordillo said he doesn’t believe the current infection wave has peaked yet – at least in terms of hospitalizations. He noted that there is typically a rise in hospitalizations about three weeks after a rise in cases.
Fortunately, Gordillo said, 90% of admitted patients are treated successfully and discharged from SMH without developing severe disease that requires intensive care or mechanical ventilation.
This report includes information from the News Service of Florida.
Anne Snabes covers city and county government for the Herald-Tribune. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @a_snabes.