By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS4 has learned there has been a dramatic drop in the number of patients with the coronavirus at South Florida hospitals.

CBS4’s Peter D’Oench reports that the number of COVID patients at Jackson Health System hospitals were 189 on this Thursday compared with a summer peak of 445 on August 23 and an all-time peak of 485 patients on July 27 of 2020.

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A spokeswoman for the Memorial Healthcare System said there were 278 COVID patients at its hospitals on this Thursday compared with an all-time peak of 738 patients and a spokeswoman for the Broward Health System said there were 139 patients on this Thursday compared with a peak of 420 patients.

Alix Zacharski, a nurse manager in the medical intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said, “As we see the numbers going down we see relief with less and less patients having COVID. That means the work load is better.”

Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya said the decline was not necessarily tied to the fact that Miami-Dade’s vaccination rate is the second highest rate for counties in the state. He said there is another important factor.

”What has reduced it in the past several weeks we have had a large number of people getting infected and when they get infected they get the anti-bodies so they can get protected. We still have hundreds of thousands of people out there in Miami-Dade County who have not been infected,” said Migoya.

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”We are down about 60% but we are still seeing a lot of people who are very sick in ICU beds, some of whom are not making it and many if them having long-term respiratory issues,” he said. “What we don’t know is if in the next several months we are going to see other variants coming our way. Is that going to have an impact or are we coming to the end of this? The theory is that we will see a couple of more surges with some different variants.”

Migoya said we may not be out of the pandemic until six to eight months from now.

“Right now we need to kept focused on the mission,” he said. “Our challenge is that we have been at this for 20 months. Our people are really fatigues from this battle we are going through and we can not rest up. We still have way too many patients and way too many people testing positive. I would like to see us below 150 COVID patients at our hospitals.

”I am also concerned that we have had a large turnover of nurses some of whom have gone on to temporary jobs where they can actually go around the country and earn more money than permanent jobs or some are leaving the profession altogether or retiring,” he said. “That means the ones here who are meant to be working three shifts a week are sometimes working four to five shifts a week and that is very tiring and the burnout rate is very high.”

Migoya is troubled by the number of people refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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”The challenge to me has been that there are a lot of people out second guessing the science and challenging the science and there is the fact that people are not getting the medicine that’s been approved,” he said.

Peter D'Oench