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Click here to listen to The Critical Times' weekly stories about COVID-19's impact on the Florida Suncoast.


Please complete the form found here if you need assistance of any kind or if you can offer assistance to members of the community.


Sarasota County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP, provides rental and utility assistance to Sarasota County residents who meet certain income requirements and can demonstrate housing instability. Funding is still available. Click here to see if you qualify and how to apply. 



The COVID Racial Data Tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. Together, we're gathering the most complete race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 in the United States.

The National Conference of State Legislatures brings you up-to-date, real-time information about bills related to and responding to COVID-19 that have been introduced in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Quick Info Links:

Sign up for a free daily coronavirus briefing from the New York Times here.

Avi Schiffmann's website tracking coronavirus has become one of the most vital resources for people seeking accurate and updated numbers on the pandemic. He's a 17-year-old high school junior from Mercer Island outside Seattle, who started the site in late December, when coronavirus had not yet been detected outside of China. Now the site has been visited by tens of millions, from every country on Earth. It tracks deaths, numbers of cases locally and globally, and provides an interactive map, information on the disease, and a Twitter feed. The resource updates every minute or so, and pulls information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere.

Questions? Contact:

Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline and Email:

866-779-6121 (8am-5pm, Monday-Friday)

[email protected]

A Sarasota-specific call center for questions and concerns about COVID-19 is now available through the Department of Health in Sarasota County

941-861-2873. Subject matter experts are available Monday – Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. 

Sarasota Memorial Hospital COVID-19 Hotline:


Image credit: Davian Ho for the Innovative Genomics Institute.

* The Supreme Court has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping vaccine-or-test requirements for large private companies.

* But the conservative-majority court allowed a vaccine mandate to stand for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.

* The OSHA mandate required that workers at businesses with 100 or more employees get vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test weekly to enter the workplace.

January 13, 2022

Statement attributable to 
Gerald E. Harmon, M.D.
President, American Medical Association:

“In the face of a continually evolving COVID-19 pandemic that poses a serious danger to the health of our nation, the Supreme Court today halted one of the most effective tools in the fight against further transmission and death from this aggressive virus. While the American Medical Association (AMA) is pleased by today’s opinion allowing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid’s (CMS) interim rule requiring COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers to take effect, we are deeply disappointed that the Court blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 vaccination and testing for large businesses from moving forward."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, despite the increased attention of Omicron, Delta continues to be the main variant circulating in the United States.

CDC Update: everyone ages 18 and older 

should get a COVID-19 booster shot

You may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.

Scheduling Your Booster Shot

If you need help scheduling your booster shot, contact the location that set up your previous appointment. If you need to get your booster shot in a location different from where you received your previous shot, there are several ways you can find a vaccine provider.

CDC recommends everyone ages 5 and older 

get a COVID-19 vaccine 

Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 is a critical tool to best protect everyone, especially those at highest risk, from severe illness and death. People who are fully vaccinated can safely resume many activities that they did prior to the pandemic. Children ages 5 years and older are able to get an age-appropriate dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. 

Learn more about what you and your child or teen can do when fully vaccinated.

Find a COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 5 Years and Older

  • The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status.
  • Check with your child’s healthcare provider about whether they offer COVID-19 vaccination. Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination walk-ins or appointments are available for children.
  • Contact your state, territorial, local, or tribal health department for more information.

Find a COVID-19 vaccine: Search

text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 

to find locations near you.



A new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site has opened Venice, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The new site is in the south parking lot of the Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave. South. It is a joint venture of the Department of Health, the City of Venice and Sarasota-based Lab Services.

Free PCR testing will be offered 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. No appointments will be required and anyone can be tested, regardless of symptoms.

The new site is in addition to the four public sites currently operating in Sarasota County:

  • Former Sarasota Kennel Club, 5400 Old Bradenton Rd, Sarasota. This drive-through site is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. offering rapid and PCR COVID-19 testing. This site is operated by Nomi Health.

  • Robert L. Taylor Community Complex parking lot, 1845 34th Street, Sarasota. This walk-up site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PCR COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services.

  • Ed Smith Stadium parking lot, 2700 12th Street, Sarasota. This drive-through COVID-19 testing site will offer PCR testing only and will operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This site is operated by Real Diagnostics.

  • Dallas White Park, 5900 Greenwood Ave, North Port. This walk-up site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PCR COVID-19 testing is available throughout the day. This site is operated by Lab Services.

The Florida Department of Health - Sarasota operates no-appointment necessary, walk-in COVID 19 vaccination clinics offering all authorized doses of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

  • DOH Sarasota (Downtown), 2200 Ringling Blvd. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • DOH Sarasota (North Port), 6950 Outreach Way. Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The health department recommends that individuals contact their medical provider, local retail pharmacies or visit for vaccine availability near them.

It recommends face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community, you should:

  • Stay home except to get medical care
  • Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis

DOH UPDATE (as of August 19, 1:30 p.m.):

The third dose of COVID-19 vaccine is now available at the Department of Health – Sarasota (DOH) 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, for those individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. No appointment is needed.

The third shot can be administered 28 days after an individual has received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines only. While your vaccination card is not required, DOH-Sarasota must be able to validate the first two doses you previously received.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend additional doses for any other individuals at this time. However, those who are immunocompromised are strongly encouraged to consult their physicians prior to receiving the additional dose.

Department of Health Sarasota County - North Port

Monday thru Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Department of Health Sarasota County - Sarasota

Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 8:30 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday and Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m

Adults 18 and older who walk-up to receive the Moderna vaccine must bring a ID and signed consent form, available on site. Individuals walking up for their first-dose should pay close attention to the information packet they will receive as it has instructions and information to return 28 days later for the second dose of Moderna.

[COVID] Hospital Changes and Visitation Policies

Sarasota Memorial Hospital: Based on current COVID-19 indicators, SMH-Sarasota and SMH-Venice are allowing limited patient visitation.

Note that all visitors and support people must wear a mask and be at least 16 years old. They must check-in upon entry and are expected to also check out before departing the hospital. No one should visit a hospital patient if they feel unwell or have any symptoms of respiratory illness.

Visiting hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Most inpatients may have up to 2 visitors at a time at the bedside from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; these visitors will be allowed to switch out during visiting hours. See below for details on unit-specific visitation policies.

Exceptions to the visitor policy may be made in certain extraordinary circumstances, such as end-of-life situations.

Patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 may not have visitors, with limited exceptions.

Manatee Memorial Hospital: Visiting hours in the hospital Inpatient Nursing Units are from 8 am – 8 pm each day. Patients are allowed one visitor per day. Visitors to the Inpatient Units must enter through the main entrance of the hospital. No visitation is allowed for patients on COVID isolation.

All patients and visitors who enter the hospital must use antibacterial foam, wear a mask upon entry and keep the mask on at all times while at the hospital.

Visitors are required to stay in the specific room assigned to the patient and are not allowed around the nurse’s station and nursing unit corridors. Please use nurse call in the room to speak to a nurse.

Lakewood Ranch Regional Medical Center: 

The following is in effect as of Monday, November 15, 2021, until further notice:

Visitation to the hospital Inpatient Nursing Units is allowed from Noon – 6 pm each day. Patients are allowed one visitor at a time that can be switched out. Visitors to the Inpatient Units must enter through the main entrance of the hospital. 

No visitation is allowed for patients on COVID isolation.

All patients and visitors who enter the hospital must use antibacterial foam, wear a mask upon entry and keep the mask on at all times while at the hospital.

Visitors are required to stay in the specific room assigned to the patient and are not allowed around the nurse’s station and nursing unit corridors. Please use nurse call in the room to speak to a nurse.

Additional visitation information for other patient care areas includes:

Emergency Department – Limit of one visitor at a time may accompany a patient in the ER and stay in the specific room as the patient's condition permits. If a patient goes to a nursing unit, the visitor will wait until visiting hours begin to see the patient.

Surgical/procedural areas – Limit of one visitor may accompany the patient for admitting until the patient is taken to the pre-surgical/pre-procedural areas. The visitor may then wait in the surgery waiting room. If the procedure is completed outside of visiting hours, the visitor will wait until visiting hours begin to see the patient.

Women’s Center

​Labor and Delivery – Two visitors at a time are permitted. This includes the Doula. Two visitors may switch out during the course of the patient's stay. Siblings may visit. A white visitor band must be provided to the visitor prior to entering the room and before all educational and support classes will resume.

GYN/Medical – One visitor at a time is permitted between the hours of Noon – 6 pm.

Blake Medical Center: 

New temporary visitor policy – effective Tuesday, October 19, 2021

For the safety of patients, visitors and caregivers, visitors will not be allowed to visit COVID-19 positive patients and patients under investigation for COVID-19.

Visitor access will also be restricted to adult visitors only. There will be no access for visitors below the age of 18 unless the visitor is the parent of a hospitalized child.

Visitor hours are 9:00am – 6:00pm with two adult visitors allowed per inpatient per calendar day.

Venice Regional Medical Center continues to allow just two visitors per day for any patients, and only allow one support person for those in surgery. It’s encouraged visitors to stay in inpatient rooms or designated waiting areas. Masks are required at all times. 


Below are two podcasted stories that outline Florida's distribution plan and explain the science and speedy approval of the vaccines.



  Drive-Thru Testing

5400 Bradenton Road,

Sarasota, FL 34234

A state-run drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is available at 5400 Bradenton Road, Sarasota 34234. The site was created through a partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida National Guard, Nomi Health and Sarasota County. All ages can be tested regardless of symptoms. No appointment or prescription is necessary. Testing is free. The site offers rapid antigen and PCR testing.

Testing at this site is available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, or until capacity is reached.

Note: If using Apple Maps, use the address 5400 Old Bradenton Road, Sarasota. If using Google Maps, use​ the address 5400 Bradenton Road, Sarasota.   

The Palmetto Bus Station 

1802 Eighth Ave. W. in Palmetto, 34221

The Manatee health department and the Florida Division of Emergency Management are operating the combined vaccine and COVID-19 testing site jointly. 

The new joint testing and vaccine site will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Health officials will offer both PCR and rapid COVID tests and Moderna vaccinations for free. Appointments are not necessary, but visitors should bring proof of Florida residency.

Robert L. Taylor Community Complex parking lot 1845 34th St.,

Dallas White Park, 5900 Greenwood Ave, North Port.

The Florida Department of Health-Sarasota (DOH), Sarasota County, the City of North Port, and the City of Sarasota have partnered with Sarasota-based Lab Services to increase the availability of COVID-19 testing in the community. Beginning August 9, Lab Services will be operating walk-up testing sites at Dallas White Park in North Port, and at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center in Sarasota. 

Testing will be offered 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday at both locations:

· Robert L. Taylor Community Complex parking lot, 1845 34th Street, Sarasota.

· Dallas White Park, 5900 Greenwood Ave, North Port.

Testing is free, PCR and Rapid Antigen tests will be available. No appointments will be required, and anyone can be tested regardless of their symptoms.

No appointment is necessary and anyone can be tested regardless of symptoms. Photo identification will be required. Spanish-speaking technicians will be on site.

PCR and antigen (rapid) testing will be offered, with PCR results provided in 24 hours and rapid testing results in 30 minutes.

Additional Resources

Drive-thru Testing: A free drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is available at the former Sarasota Kennel Club, 5400 Old Bradenton Road, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. An appointment is not required.

COVID-19 Hotline: A COVID-19 hotline operated by the Department of Health-Sarasota County is available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 941-861-2883.

The state testing location in Bradenton is no longer in operation. Many pharmacies offer COVID-19 testing. Nearby testing sites are listed below:

  • Near Bradenton Area Convention Center:
  • Walgreens 8th Ave. Palmetto
  • CVS 8th Ave. Palmetto
  • CVS Bradenton
  • CVS West Bradenton
  • Ellenton Urgent Care

Keep up with the spread of COVID-19 in the US and around the world:

COVID 19 RESOURCES -- NEW as of 12/23/20


Food for Kids

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried activated a text line and call center to find free meals for kids during the school closures. Text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211 to find the closest participating Summer BreakSpot location with meals available. Residents can also call 2-1-1 to speak with a live operator for additional information.

Library Hoopla

Hoopla, Hooray! Sarasota County Libraries has temporarily increased all Hoopla checkouts to 10! Get instant access to all your favorite movies, shows, music, books and audiobooks!

For answers to questions about COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization Website.

What is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is a recently discovered coronavirus that can cause respiratory infection. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Who is most at risk?

Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How does COVID-19 spread?

As of March 2020, the disease is known to spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

Can someone without symptoms spread COVID-19?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms.

What are the best ways to protect myself and others?

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain social distancing by limiting your contact with those who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home as much as possible especially when sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands.
  • When you cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call your health care provider in advance.
  • Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Community Health and Connectedness

The Critical Times team is committed to coming together in this time of stress and anxiety, as it is clear that one of the most important things we can do as a community is take care of each other. Across the country, and the world, we have seen what is possible when we come together to share resources, knowledge, and creativity. Our job is to keep our community informed of critical news developments, and that is what we will continue to do. Below are some community-centered resources, compiled by the Urbana-Champaign Indy Media Center.

  • Water: page 3
  • Food: page 6
  • Prep list: page 9
  • Cleaning: page 11
  • Meds, Health, and Disabilities: 12
  • List of external articles she suggests: page 14 

Additional suggestions to stay connected and engaged can be found in Pandemic Preparation and Positive Steps to Take, which is also long, leading with a lot of COVID-19 info. Towards the bottom, look for this list, which will provide details under each heading:
  • Immediately start social-distancing practices
  • Prepare yourself on a logistical level
  • Prepare your emotional and community support network
  • Optimize your own psychological and physical health to boost your immunity and your resilience
  • Start looking for the opportunities of what you can do at home, which helps so you don’t feel bored and anxious
  • Get involved in improve-the-world opportunities that this extended break from business-as-usual will provide

Frequently Asked Questions about symptoms and testing:

What should I do if I have symptoms or have been exposed?

How do I get tested?

  • If you have symptoms, call your healthcare provider. Your healthcare professional will work with your county health department to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
  • According to the Florida Department of Health, a person who is tested will have three specimens taken: oral, nasal, and saliva. The samples will be given to the county health department, who will then either ship or deliver them to the closest state laboratory. If a specimen is tested positive, it will be identified as ‘presumptive positive’ until the result is confirmed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information on COVID-19 testing see CDC Tests for COVID-19.

We want to hear your thoughts about the state of education in Florida. Please comment on the following:

1. Public schools in Sarasota County stand to lose $60m in state funding, if the Republican supermajority in Tallahassee passes HB-1, which would make all students eligible to receive state funds for private tuition.

2. The leadership changes at New College of Florida with a stated goal of transforming the school into the 'Hillsdale of the South'.

CLICK HERE to Sign Up for our E-newslettter!  


Critical Times broadcast dates and times:

Friday 6-6:30 PM

Saturday 12pm - Rebroadcast of Friday show

Alt. Wednesdays 6-6:30pm