Record number of COVID-19 patients at Sarasota Memorial Hospital – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The hospital had 50 coronavirus patients on Tuesday, breaking the record of 43 set on May 10 and May 11.

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Sarasota Memorial Hospital had a record 50 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, another sign that the local outbreak is in dangerous new territory.

“As Florida’s reopening gains momentum, we are seeing a rapid and alarming rise in patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus,” wrote Sarasota Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fiorica and Sarasota Memorial Chief of Staff Dr. Alissa Shulman in a guest editorial published by the Herald-Tribune Tuesday.

Both Sarasota and Manatee counties have been setting daily records for new coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

Many of those infected are younger and less at risk of becoming severely ill, raising hopes that the rise in cases would not strain the local hospital system.

But Sarasota Memorial’s COVID-19 caseload has been steadily increasing since early June.

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The hospital had 43 COVID-19 patients on May 10 and May 11, the largest tally before Tuesday’s new record. The COVID-19 patient count dropped through the end of May. On June 1 Sarasota Memorial was down to 10 COVID-19 patients, with none in the intensive care unit.

On Wednesday Sarasota Memorial had 49 COVID-19 patients, with 16 of them in the ICU. There now are two ICU units full of COVID-19 patients, as there were during the previous peak in hospitalizations.

The recent spike in COVID-19 inpatients at Sarasota Memorial corresponds with Florida emerging as a hot spot for the coronavirus.

The state has one of the worst outbreaks in the nation and the big new wave of cases has alarmed policymakers.

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The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation banned drinking at bars last week and many Florida communities, including the cities of Sarasota and Holmes Beach, have implemented mandatory mask policies for certain public settings. Beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach are being closed over the Fourth of July weekend to prevent big crowds.

Shulman and Fiorica applauded the City of Sarasota’s new mask rule and urged “public officials to require cloth masks to be worn in public places, such as grocery stores, public transportation and public buildings.”

“The next couple of weeks will be critical as our state struggles to slow the spread,” the doctors wrote.

Last week Sarasota Memorial reversed course and reinstated a ban on visitors to limit the possibility of coronavirus transmission within the hospital.

A big concern as the outbreak spreads is the availability of hospital beds.

Sarasota Memorial had 653 beds occupied on Wednesday. The hospital is approved for 839 staffed beds but spokeswoman Kim Savage said “right now we have enough staff to easily surge up to 750” occupied beds.

The hospital currently has 56 patients in an ICU that typically has 62 beds, but recently added 10 more beds by converting other areas. There is the capability to have more than 100 ICU beds if needed.

Florida hospitals were prohibited from doing elective procedures for part of the outbreak to conserve beds for COVID-19 patients. That prohibition was lifted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but there could be a push to scale back such procedures again if hospitals start to fill up.

“There’s been no discussion of scaling back yet,” Savage said. “We still feel like we have capacity.”

Sarasota County set a new record Tuesday for the number of coronavirus cases confirmed in a single day.

There were 119 case confirmed in Sarasota Tuesday, according to data released Wednesday by the Florida Department of That tops the previous record of 106 cases confirmed June 26.

There were 159 coronavirus cases confirmed in Manatee County Tuesday, the third highest daily total on record.

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