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Denver ICU has zero COVID patients for first time since pandemic began

The hospital's last COVID patient was taken out of isolation Friday morning.

DENVER — For the first time since the pandemic began in 2020, Rose Medical Center is down to zero COVID-19 patients. 

It's a welcome relief for healthcare professionals at the hospital.

"This morning we took our last patient off of isolation, and it's a good feeling," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Weinfeld said.

An empty ICU room has been a rare sight over the last two years. 

"We saw a pretty gradual decline over the last couple of months and then got to today," he said. "I think vaccinations have helped dramatically as far as working our way towards herd immunity."

Weinfeld said right now, he feels hopeful. Hopeful there isn't going to be another major hospital event like we've seen with COVID surges in the past. But of course, new variants can be unpredictable, so it's still a wait and see. 

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"I think to be cautiously optimistic is certainly appropriate, and a little celebration I think is good," he said. "But, as we’ve all seen with COVID sometimes we don’t know and we just have to kind of wait and see. We’re ready. We’re always ready."

It wasn't that long ago ICU nurse Kathryn Stewart was changing out of her scrubs in the garage, quarantining from her family and dealing with the emotional and physical toll of the pandemic. 

At the pandemic's peak, Rose Medical Center had about 50 COVID patients at a time. 

"Losing patient after patient -- young patients that would have never been in the hospital. Patients that were my parents' age or reminded you of family members that otherwise would not have been in the hospital -- was very frustrating," she said.

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"I still remember the visions of that and it brought tears to me as how hard they were working and how much emotion they were putting into the care of their patients, and they never gave up," Weinfeld said. 

Stewart said this day feels surreal, like a light at the end of the tunnel. 

But, she said it's important to stay vigilant because COVID has proven to be so unpredictable. 

"I think it really is a kind of a relief off of all of our shoulders," Stewart said. "We're going to stay prepared if there's more to come, but it definitely feels like we did a good job."

"I do think and hope that one day we're going to look back and people are not going to remember this," Weinfeld said. "I think when we get old we're going to say, 'Why were we wearing masks in all of those pictures?' So we'll see what happens."

He encourages people to get vaccinated if they haven't, follow government guidelines for masking and continue with hand washing. 

RELATED: Meet the women behind Colorado's response to COVID

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