EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - The light at the end of this pandemic's tunnel is shining a bit brighter in Eau Claire.
Area hospitals are seeing fewer COVID-19 patients walk through their doors, though health care officials say we can't breathe a sigh of relief just yet.
In November and December, over half of the patients in Eau Claire's Marshfield Clinic had COVID-19. Now, that number has dwindled to just a few hospitalizations.
This decline has allowed the hospital to close its COVID-19 patient unit, though it is still being maintained on the chance of another spike in cases.
While this pandemic is far from over, hospital officials said, for the time being, this gives health care workers a well-deserved breather.
"Staff is relieved that we are at this place, but I don't think we're out of the woods yet," said Bill Priest, the chief administrative officer at Marshfield Clinic in Eau Claire. "There are still variants and we need to stay diligent with things, but at least it's nice to be talking about vaccines and things instead of just a continued growth in hospitalizations of COVID patients."
Priest said the severity of cases they do see at the hospital still varies, just as it has throughout the majority of this pandemic. He also urges the community to stay patient during vaccine distribution, because there's still a much greater demand than supply.
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire are also reporting fewer hospitalizations.
Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire had 13 COVID-19 patients as of Feb. 23 which is down from the peak of more than 100 at a time in November 2020.
According to Wisconsin DHS data, there are 30 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the northwest part of the state. That includes Eau Claire County and all of the counties to the north and west of Eau Claire. Three of those patients are in the intensive care unit.
Statewide, there are 348 COVID-19 patients in the hospital with 95 in the ICU.