Sarasota Memorial Hospital's COVID-19 ICU sits empty for first time 

Behind the doors at Sarasota Memorial Hospital Casey Weismann found herself on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight in early March. 

"You kind of had to put on your emotional armor to go into work each day,” Weismann said. “You didn’t really know what you were going to fac.”

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Weismann has been a nurse at SMH for nearly 13 years. "It could be scary at times because there was so much information flying around and so many unknown unknowns, that we were doing the best we could day to day," she explained. 

The hospital treated 167 COVID-19 patients and 40 ended up in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit.

For the first time, the COVID-19 ICU sits empty, without the sound of ventilators running to keep patients alive. 

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"This is a typical intensive care unit, nice empty bed without any COVID-19 patients in it, these patients were sick," said Dr.Kirk Voelker. 

Twenty-one COVID--19 patients that do not require such critical care remain at the hospital. They will soon be discharged. 

"At the maximum, we had 16 patients that were either COVID-19 positive or suspected COVID-19 positive at that time," said Dr.Voelker. 

Dr.Voelker is a critical care specialist who heads clinical research for Sarasota Memorial Hospital. 

Dr.Voelker said the empty space is a moment to breathe and a chance to celebrate lives saved. 

"They were some of the sickest people that have been in the hospital for a long time. It’s great to see this unit looking like a ghost town," he said. 

For how long remains unknown. Staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital remains prepared for whatever the future holds. 

"We have now mapped out a contingency plan on how to best serve the COVID-19 patients...We are ready we have been through the worst of it, but we are prepared," he said. 

Nurse Weismann agreed. "We know very well how to take care of these patients, it’s not all unknown anymore," she said.

Twenty-eight patients died from COVID-19 at the hospital, but it was able to discharge 117 out of 167 hospitalized.