Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again in Sarasota-Manatee—just when we thought we were getting a break.
In the last week, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has seen an increase in Covid patient admissions. Just two weeks ago, the hospital only had 36 Covid admissions, including five in the intensive care unit.
This week, there are 68 cases, with seven in the intensive care unit. This increase comes as the local and state case average has slowly increased, too.
According to new reporting in The Guardian, two new sub-variants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, are spreading in the U.S. and throughout the world, and scientists are concerned about how contagious they are. Per new information from the CDC this week, BA.4 and BA.5 account for nearly 13 percent of all new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. between May 29 and June 4.
And despite the approved vaccines, booster, and second booster shot for those who are 50-plus and immunocompromised, there's still a chance you can contract a case requiring a higher level of care—especially since scientists worry that BA.4 and BA.5 are more contagious forms of the virus that could escape immunity from past infections and vaccinations, causing breakthrough infections, according to The Guardian.
Still, SMH staff emphasize they are prepared for whatever comes their way.
"We have ample space, supplies and staff to care for Covid and non-Covid patients," says Sarasota Memorial's public information officer Kim Savage.
The Florida Department of Health Sarasota (DOH Sarasota) disease intervention services program manager Michael Drennon says that it's difficult to tell how long this will last or when a peak or plateau will occur.
According to DOH Sarasota, there were 1,454 new Covid-19 cases in Sarasota County and 1,168 in Manatee County in the week of May 27-June 2. This is a 27 percent and 30 percent increase, respectively, over the previous two weeks. Those numbers also don't include the number of people who've done at-home tests and have been treating themselves at home, instead of a clinical setting.
If you happen to contract Covid-19 during this time, there are a few treatment options available. Ask your doctor if you qualify for the monoclonal antibody treatment Evusheld or the Pfizer oral antiviral drug Paxlovid. Both are available in select locations and pharmacies in Sarasota-Manatee.
"Paxlovid can decrease hospitalizations and death by 88 percent for those at high risk," Sarasota Memorial Hospital's infectious disease specialist Dr. Manuel Gordillo said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, May 10. "Another injectable long-acting treatment called Evusheld can help prevent infection by 70 percent to 80 percent in high risk patients."
Even if you are hospitalized, Gordillo adds that 90 percent of Covid-19 patients admitted to Sarasota Memorial are treated successfully and discharged without developing severe disease or requiring the use of a ventilator.
To prevent another summer wave like we experienced last August with the Delta variant, keep updated with the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control's protocol. As of now, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommend that those in Saras0ta-Manatee wear masks in indoor, public settings.