Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties continued to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations this week, with ICU beds at all the hospitals in Charlotte and DeSoto County filled to capacity Friday, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

Not all patients in ICU units necessarily have COVID-19, but should the need arise to accommodate them, hospitals would either convert other rooms to negative-pressure units or else transfer the patient elsewhere, a hospital spokesperson said last week.

DeSoto Memorial, Bayfront Health in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, and Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte all showed full capacity at their ICU units, according to AHCA data.

On Friday there were 14 patients hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 in DeSoto County; 38 in Charlotte County and 107 in Sarasota.

Our area is keeping pace with the uptick in cases statewide and throughout the nation.

Florida’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise, with 52,866 added since last week, according to data. As of Friday there have been 923,418 total cases reported statewide, of which 910,065 were Florida residents.

Positive cases continued to climb in Charlotte, DeSoto, Sarasota and Lee counties. Data showed 71 new cases in Charlotte County on Thursday, 77 cases on Wednesday, and 43 new cases on Tuesday. As of Friday there were 4,544 positive resident cases in Charlotte County and 492 hospitalizations.

DeSoto County had 47 new cases on Thursday, 235 on Wednesday and 30 new cases on Tuesday. DeSoto has had 2,157 positive cases and 151 hospitalizations.

Sarasota County had 213 new cases on Thursday, 275 new cases Wednesday, and 86 on Tuesday. Sarasota County had 11,941 positive resident cases and 868 hospitalizations.

Lee County had 294 new cases Thursday, 269 on Wednesday and 274 Tuesday. It has had 27,035 positive resident cases and 1,710 hospitalizations.

The number of residents hospitalized due to the coronavirus reached 53,091 statewide.

Florida resident deaths rose to 17,889, which is up 444 a week ago.

Deaths were ticking upward in our area. As of Friday a total of 179 had died from COVID-19 in Charlotte County, 33 in DeSoto County, 371 in Sarasota County, and 556 in Lee County.

School cases

Large numbers of quarantines due to COVID-19 exposure at DeSoto and Sarasota county schools has led to several classrooms at one DeSoto County school to switch to virtual learning.

At Nocatee Elementary School in DeSoto County, 280 students were told to go into isolation after they might have come in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. There were four students at that school who did test positive, according to the school district’s dashboard.

In addition to the 280 at Nocatee, 73 students at DeSoto Middle School, 65 at Memorial Elementary, 32 at DeSoto High School and four at West Elementary were told to go into isolation.

DeSoto County School Superintendent Dr. Bobby Brown issued a memorandum saying that because of the situation, “several classrooms at one of our schools” would switch to virtual learning. The memorandum did not indicate which school was involved. Brown said the school district “follows the Department of Health’s recommendation for isolation.”

Sarasota County also saw an increase in its number of students who needed to be isolated after possibly having come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Craig Maniglia, spokesman for the school district, confirmed that there were 698 students on Friday who went into isolation. Another 49 students tested positive and were also in isolation.

Maniglia paraphrased a school board member who said that as the surrounding area goes up in COVID-19 cases, so would the schools’ population.

Two Sarasota schools particularly hit hard were Sarasota Middle School and Venice High, where each had more than 100 students who went into isolation.

In Charlotte County Public Schools, there were two positive cases reported this week. The district has reported 35 positive cases since Sept. 8.

Charlotte County Public Schools District spokesman Mike Riley said this week the district had 124, three-day exclusions for sick kids who present to clinics, and 29, 14-day exclusions for a positive family member. An exclusion means that a student is sent home for a certain duration if that student exhibits possible COVID-19 symptoms. Riley said that for the year so far, there have been 1,450, three-day exclusions and 180, 14-day exclusions.

Florida’s Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran was expected to issue an emergency order “by Thanksgiving,” said spokesperson Taryn Fenske, who said that Corcoran would give preference to “parental choice.” The mandate could come in the form of one of three scenarios: all students would return to brick and mortar schools, school districts would continue a balance of in-school learning and virtual learning, or all schools would inaugurate virtual learning.

Vaccine news

In related news, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that as soon as the FDA gives its approval, Pfizer will ship 25 million doses of its vaccine, and Moderna will ship 15 million. Since it takes two doses, there would be enough vaccines to inoculate 20 million people. But DeSantis in a press conference said it was unknown how many dosages would come to Florida.

He said he expected the first round of vaccines to be released by the end of December, and that hospitals would receive them first.

In late-breaking news, Pfizer announced it was seeking emergency authorization from the FDA for its vaccine and that 50 million would be possible by next month.

The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).

DeSantis said at a press conference that five Florida hospitals now have the capability to provide storage for the vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine must be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius, which is minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, which would not be an issue at hospitals since that is the temperature most home freezers could reach.


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