Sarasota Memorial Seeing Fewer COVID-19 Patients In ICU Than Previous Waves – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Sarasota Memorial Hospital is seeing a lower proportion of its COVID-19 patients go to the intensive care unit than in during previous pandemic surges, according to an infectious disease specialist at the hospital.

Currently, most coronavirus patients at Sarasota Memorial are in the regular COVID-19 units and aren’t sick enough to require intensive care.

This is because a lot of Sarasota’s population has been vaccinated against the virus or has immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection, according to Dr. Manuel Gordillo, the health system’s medical director of infection prevention and control.

Related: COVID-19 case numbers remain high in Sarasota, Manatee counties

More: Doctor who diagnosed one of Florida’s first coronavirus cases reflects on the pandemic

In a recorded video interview shared with media outlets, Gordillo spoke about the state of COVID-19 at Sarasota Memorial and offered advice to local residents about the omicron variant, which is currently surging in Florida.

Hospitalizations at SMH

Gordillo said Sarasota Memorial is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, but most of those patients do not need to go to the ICU.  

“The good thing that we’re seeing is because our population, a lot of them have been immunized, there’s this decoupling where we see a lot of hospitalizations, but going just to the COVID units, not getting sick enough to go to the ICU,” he said.

Sarasota Memorial had 132 COVID-19 patients, as of Friday, Jan. 7. Only 18 of those patients – or about 14% – were in the ICU.  

The proportion of COVID patients that require critical care used to be higher. On Sept. 1, for example, the hospital had 265 COVID patients, and 26% of them were in the ICU.

Most COVID-19-positive patients are coming to Sarasota Memorial because of the coronavirusNationally, some hospitals are reporting that many of their COVID-19-positive patients didn’t come to the hospital for COVID-19 treatment. At some New York City hospitals, roughly 50% to 65% of COVID-19 admissions are people who came to the hospital for other reasons than COVID-19, but who then tested positive, according to a Jan. 4 story in The New York Times.

But Gordillo said at Sarasota Memorial, a majority of COVID-19-positive patients are at the hospital because of COVID.

On Wednesday night, for example, all of the patients in the health system’s COVID-19 ICU were there because of the virus.

How to tell if you have the omicron variantUsing your symptoms, it’s impossible to tell whether you have one variant or another, Gordillo said. But Florida is currently going through an omicron wave, so most cases in the state are omicron cases.

It can be hard for patients to tell whether they have COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses.  

According to Gordillo, medical experts traditionally have said that loss of taste or smell is more characteristic of the novel coronavirus than other viruses. Now, they’re saying that a sore throat is a common symptom of the omicron variant.

“But in the big scheme of things, it’s very difficult to tell,” he said. “That’s why it’s very necessary to test to tell which one you have.”

Can I get the omicron variant if I’m vaccinated or have had COVID-19 before?Yes. Gordillo said that the novel coronavirus has developed mutations that allow it to overcome immunity – either from a previous infection or from vaccinations. Some vaccinated people are getting a mild form of COVID-19.

However, vaccinations still give people “excellent protection” against hospitalization and death, the infectious disease specialist said.

Zac Anderson contributed reporting to this article. 

Anne Snabes covers city and county government for the Herald-Tribune. You can contact her at asnabes@gannett.com or (941) 228-3321 and follow her on Twitter at @a_snabes.