PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — After two years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to drop across the country and in South Florida.
For the past 18-years, Heidi Weiser has walked the halls helping sick patients at HCA Florida Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee.
"Challenges that we overcome," said Weiser, the nursing director at the hospital.
But the past two years of the pandemic have been grueling and the biggest challenge of her nursing career.
"It was scary. I mean, can you imagine the fear of the unknown?" Weiser said.
There have been many highs and many lows with surges caused by the delta and omicron variants, but now HCA Florida Palms West Hospital is marking a milestone.
Monday was the first time this hospital was COVID-free with zero coronavirus patients.
"You get to breathe and see the sunshine of the victory that we've accomplished of we achieved," Weiser said.
"To see patients get so sick and to have our staff be stretched and our physicians and staff really pushed to the limits, but they were extremely resilient," said Dr. Jason Ouellette, the chief medical officer at HCA Florida Palms West Hospital.
Infections and admissions are declining at many hospitals across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast with more resources, treatments, and vaccinations.
But Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, an infectious disease specialist, said COVID-19 will likely never go away and will probably become a seasonal virus like the flu.
"That's why it's going to be important that we continue to encourage people to get vaccinated because there's a good chance we're going to continue doing so possibly once or twice a year," Kiminyo said.
We're told variants will always pop up, but right now nothing is picking up speed, allowing front-line workers to catch their breath and recharge.
"We all got through it together, it's an amazing feeling," Weiser said.
Doctors said it's still too early to say if COVID-19 is under control, but Dr. Kiminyo predicts more hospitals in our area will be at or close to zero COVID patients in the near future.