SARASOTA — Sarasota Memorial Hospital has received its first batch of Moderna vaccine to fight COVID-19.

The hospital received 9,600 doses of the vaccine and was vaccinating its workers by 12:30 p.m., according to SMH Public Relations Officer Kim Savage.

“They’re very excited,” Savage said of hospital workers awaiting the shot. “People are lining up and doing fists in the air, celebrating. It’s like they can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Savage said by 2 p.m. Tuesday, more than 200 staff members had been vaccinated. The first distribution is going to frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists along with “clinical and non-clinical staff who support patient car,” she said.

She said as supplies allow, they will get vaccinations to other workers at the hospital and eventually to volunteers and other clinicians.

“Given government guidelines and limited vaccine supplies in the U.S., SMH’s initial focus will be on vaccinating employees and physicians on its medical staff. We are not a community vaccination site,” she said in an email.

Nurse Aileen Bermudez was the first to receive the vaccine at Sarasota Memorial.

“COVID is everywhere. It’s a big thing. A lot of people have died because of this — it’s very serious,” she said.

She said it was historic and wanted others to do what she did.

“I would encourage everyone to get themselves vaccinated for your family, for your loved ones — for everyone — so we can beat this COVID,” she said.

Dr. Washington Hill also received the vaccine and said it made him feel “reassured.”

“We’ve had over the last year a lot of darkness. What this vaccine does is gives us reassurance that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s not tomorrow,” Hill said.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital Infectious Diseases Dr. Manuel Gordillo celebrated the vaccine, calling it “so emotional.”

“We’ve been through so much,” Gordillo said. “Just seeing those boxes, to me, represented the wonderful work of all the scientists throughout the world that came up to deliver this very effective and safe vaccine. It’s just a dream come true.”

The ailment has not slowed down in the region.

Local counties followed the upward trend, and the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard revealed that new cases were among younger, middle-aged residents.

The average age of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 in Sarasota, Lee and DeSoto counties is in the low 40s, while the average age of a person testing positive in Charlotte County is 56.

By the numbers

On Friday, the Sarasota County School District reported 12 more positive cases and 167 total contact/quarantine cases in the last 48 hours. There were 54 students and 20 staff members who had tested positive.

Students tested positive over the past week were at Cranberry Elementary School (1), Atwater Elementary (1), Glenallen Elementary School (1), Heron Creek Middle School (1), Lamarque Elementary (5), North Port High School (6), and Venice High School (4).

Among personnel, new cases were at Cranberry Elementary (2), Atwater Elementary (2), Lamarque Elementary (2), North Port High School (1), Venice High School (1), and Woodland Middle School (1).

Since the pandemic started in Florida, Sarasota County has had 17,110 cases as of Tuesday evening. There have been 998 hospitalizations, according to the Florida Department of Health and its latest numbers.

Since the first case was reported in the state on March 1 at Sarasota Doctors Hospital, 468 people have died in Sarasota County.


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