NORFOLK, Va. — Sentara Healthcare, which operates 12 hospitals across Virginia and North Carolina, only treated 13 people for cases of COVID-19 over the weekend of April 23.
A Facebook post from the company said it was a historic low for the medical group.
"5 of the 12 hospitals had zero COVID-19 patients!" the post reads. "This marks the lowest COVID-19 patient census for Sentara Healthcare in the last two years of the pandemic."
That's a huge drop from January 2022, when there were about 475 people with COVID-19 in Sentara's hospitals during the wave of omicron cases.
Since January, the number of COVID-19 patients in American hospitals dropped 90%.
Sentara Healthcare thanked its employees for meeting the needs of the areas they serve. In previous interviews, leaders for the group said these medical employees have taken care of COVID-19 patients through high capacity days, burnout, and at risk of getting sick themselves.
Sentara Healthcare leaders said the last two years felt like forever.
"We have been running this marathon at the pace of a sprint," said Dr. Bogdan Neughebauer, the chief medical officer of Sentara Leigh Hospital.
Neughebauer said the high volume of COVID-19 patients brought lots of stress and pressure to Sentara Healthcare staff for many months. Now, that marathon is winding down as fewer patients are heading to the hospital.
"It's wonderful to have a chance to return to a more normal pace. This is really something new for us."
According to updated figures Wednesday morning, about 22 confirmed COVID-19 patients are spread out across the health system. Neughebauer said one person is in the ICU. Three hospitals aren't seeing any COVID-19 patients.
"It's always refreshing and relieving to hear to have we don't have any COVID patients, or we don't have any what we call PUIs, patients under investigation," said Alisa Petrauskas, the director of cardiothoracic and critical care programs at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
She said though stressful, this experience has prepared her staff in many ways.
"The shock of it has worn off," she said. "We have a better understanding and are better prepared in how to manage it."
Neughebaur said with fewer COVID-19 patients, health professionals can better focus their efforts on caring for other patients. Though, hospital leaders remain cautiously optimistic as the Omicron subvariant travels across the state.
"If it is to stay here, hopefully, it will act like influenza where it would have, more or less, a seasonal appearance," he said.
He said hospital staff will know when to see more patients than normal, and have medication and tests on hand to provide care.