KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Saint Luke's Hospital reached a major milestone this week. There are currently no COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit.
It's the first time since the start of the pandemic the ICU has been free of COVID-19 patients , other than a few short recent short stints that only lasted several hours.
It's a drastic change from the last time KSHB 41 News toured the ICU in January, when beds were filled with patients and staff were working around the clock.
Dr. Carole Freiberger, a critical care physician, said she has a sense of cautious optimism, and reaching this mark feels like a breath of fresh air for workers.
"We were all very excited when we found out that we had transferred our very last COVID patient out of the unit," Freiberger said.
While there are no COVID-19 patients in need of intensive care, there are are still patients in the hospital recovering.
Freiberger said the decline in COVID-19 cases in recent months is like a light switch and likely has multiple factors at play.
"I'm pleased with the number of people who got vaccines because really, honestly, the number of people who we saw in the ICU were people who weren't vaccinated, I would say the vast majority, like overwhelmingly," Freiberger said.
She said another contributing factor is likely the omicron variant being more transmissible, but not making people as sick.
COVID-19 case numbers have decreased in recent months at the University of Kansas Health System as well. Tuesday morning, doctors said there were 14 active infections and 53 patients in recovery.
"Our active infections are really what we are concerned with, they are kind of staying stable in the mid-teens, hopefully it will go down, but again one day at a time, and overall I think the trend is good," said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control.
Freiberger said she's incredibly proud to work with such dedicated health care workers at Saint Luke's who have overcome challenge after challenge and take care of each other along the way.
"We've always been a very tight-knit group, very reliant on each other, very supportive of each other, but after you go through something like this, the folks in these walls then become your family," Freiberger said.
While it's an exciting moment, Freiberger wants to remind the public the pandemic is not over and people must continue to stay vigilant moving forward.
"With the mask mandates being relaxed, I still think social distancing is important, if you start feeling any symptoms, test yourself and quarantine and do what we were doing before," Freiberger said.
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