COVID-19 case numbers in Sarasota and Manatee counties decreased the week of Jan. 14-20, compared to the previous week.
But the area is still seeing a high level of transmission of the coronavirus, so Sarasota County's top health official is encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, practice social distancing and wear a mask when physical distancing isn't possible.
The Florida Department of Health reported 5,447 new cases in Sarasota County and 4,526 in Manatee County for the week of Jan. 14-20.
This is a change from the previous two weeks, when both counties, each week, broke records for the number of cases reported by the Department of Health. The department releases weekly case numbers each Friday for the previous seven days.
The numbers were 6,089 for Sarasota County and 5,423 for Manatee the week of Jan. 7-13.
This means that the weekly total fell by 10.5% in Sarasota County and by 16.5% in Manatee the week of Jan. 14-20, compared to the previous week.
"We continue to see high rates of viral transmission locally, but are encouraged that the numbers in the latest COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report declined slightly," said Chuck Henry, the health officer for the Florida Department of Health's Sarasota County office, via a spokesman.
Henry said the county is continuing to see some of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission of the pandemic.
Sarasota County’s positivity rate was 24.9% and Manatee’s was 26.2% for the week ending last Thursday.
Florida does not directly publish county-level death data. But the state as a whole reported 605 additional COVID deaths the week of Jan. 14-20. Deaths can take weeks to be processed and make their way into state statistics.
The state’s COVID death toll is rising slower than it did during last summer’s delta surge, The Palm Beach Post reported.
COVID cases across the state
Florida is seeing cases decrease. The state reported 282,520 new cases in the week ending Sunday, a 30.9% drop from the previous week's tally of 408,841, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Florida ranked 37th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, the analysis showed. Holiday weekends, such as the Martin Luther King holiday, can often affect case reporting.
In the latest week coronavirus cases in the United States decreased 14.9% from the week before, with 4,770,122 cases reported. With 6.45% of the country's population, Florida had 5.92% of the country's cases in the last week. Across the country, 27 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.
Within Florida, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Taylor County with 2,276 cases per 100,000 per week; Madison County with 2,233; and Jackson County with 2,146. The Centers for Disease Control says high levels of community transmission begin at 100 cases per 100,000 per week.
Adding the most new cases overall were Miami-Dade County, with 46,959 cases; Broward County, with 23,063 cases; and Orange County, with 18,738. Weekly case counts rose in 19 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Jackson, Santa Rosa, and Baker counties.
A total of 5,324,438 people in Florida have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 63,763 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 70,700,678 people have tested positive and 866,540 people have died.
Hospitalizations at Sarasota Memorial
Sarasota Memorial Hospital reported on Monday that it was treating 221 COVID inpatients, which is up from 215 on Sunday and 186 last Monday. The health system treats COVID patients both at its campus in Sarasota and at its campus in Venice.
"We hope to see the number of hospitalizations begin to level off this week and begin declining by the end of this month or first week in February," Sarasota Memorial spokeswoman Kim Savage said in an email.
In November, the health system opened a new hospital in Venice and a new cancer tower in Sarasota. These new facilities have "greatly increased" Sarasota Memorial's capacity to care for patients with and without COVID, Savage said.
In past coronavirus surges, the health system had to scale back non-emergency or elective procedures to preserve space in its ICU. Not as many COVID patients are being admitted to the ICU during the omicron wave, though.
"That said, because we are a major referral center, it is not unusual for our ICUs to remain at or near 100% capacity," Savage said on Monday. "Approximately 70% of patients in our ICU today do not have COVID – they are recovering from surgery or other illnesses or injuries."
Twenty-six COVID patients were in the ICU at Sarasota Memorial on Monday, the same number reported last Monday.
Sarasota Memorial’s most recent positivity rate is 21.7%, which is down from the number reported last Monday: 25.3%.
USA TODAY analyzed federal hospital data as of Sunday, Jan. 23. The numbers show that there were 14,873 likely COVID patients admitted in the state, down from 16,789 the week before, but up from 4,930 four weeks ago.
Hospitals in 25 states reported more COVID-19 patients than a week earlier, while hospitals in 22 states had more COVID-19 patients in intensive-care beds. Hospitals in 30 states admitted more COVID-19 patients in the latest week than a week prior, the USA TODAY analysis of U.S. Health and Human Services data shows.
Anne Snabes covers city and county government for the Herald-Tribune. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (941) 228-3321 and follow her on Twitter at @a_snabes.
This report includes material from USA TODAY NETWORK reporter Mike Stucka.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Omicron wave Sarasota County: weekly case count decreases by 10.5%