SARASOTA — The COVID-19 census at Sarasota Memorial Hospital has improved significantly this month, though a quick glance at its Daily News Update might lead you to think otherwise.

Friday’s census was 242 patients, about the same as in mid-August, when the delta variant was causing a major surge in admissions.

But there’s an asterisk next to that number, signifying that 48 of those patients are actually clear of the virus but have had their discharge delayed due to other complications.

They may still need treatment for heart, lung or kidney issues, Public Information Officer Kim Savage said.

“In some cases, we have patients who no longer need acute hospital care, but still need 24/7 skilled care and are awaiting acceptance or placement in a skilled nursing facility,” she added.

That puts the number of patients who actually have COVID-19 at 194 — the first time in a month the census has been below 200.

Similarly, 17 of the 73 COVID-19 patients in ICU were virus-free but not yet able to leave the unit. Nearly 74% of the patients in ICU either have the virus or are still recovering from it, according to Friday’s update.

The hospital’s seven-day positivity rate has been declining as well, dropping to 13.1% Friday compared to 16.6% for the prior period. It’s slightly higher than the 12.61% the Health Department reported for the seven days through Sept. 9.

The number that isn’t improving is deaths, with more than 20 reported this week and about 40 for the month after 99 last month.

Venice Regional Bayfront Health reported three deaths this week. It had 31 COVID-19 patients Friday.

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The local numbers reflect the general improvement in COVID-19 statistics for the state over the past two weeks.

New cases in Florida took their first significant drop in months in the week ending Sept. 2, with over 22,000 fewer cases reported than in the prior Weekly Situation Report.

The Sept. 10 report wasn’t available at press time but the state had reported 99,586 new cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through Thursday, a decrease of about 30,000 cases.

The total included 10,162 cases reported for Sept. 6, the lowest daily number since July 19. But it also included 17,854 cases on Friday, the highest number for the week.

Total hospitalizations in the state have been declining as well, dropping to 12,651 on Friday with 261 hospitals reporting. It’s a decrease of more than 4,000 patients from the peak of the surge.

At 2,954 patients, ICU occupancy dipped below 3,000 for the first time in weeks.

The Sarasota County School District has seen its COVID-19 statistics remain relatively stable. There were 56 staff and 854 students in isolation Friday and 10 staff and 552 students quarantined.

The district announced late Friday that it was extending until further notice the suspension of field trips and nonessential visitors and volunteers to school campuses.

Put in place Aug. 10, the suspension was supposed to last for 30 days. It was extended, effective immediately, because “(w)e continue to have concerns regarding community spread of COVID-19 and believe the additional influx of adults on our campuses may impact our ability to educate and keep students and teachers in school,” a news release states.

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