SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota Memorial Hospital is celebrating a major milestone in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. For the first time in over a year, the hospital’s intensive care unit has no COVID-positive patients.

The hospital’s epidemiologist, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, found out the ICU was COVID-free Wednesday. He admits, he was overcome with emotion.

“It hit me that, wow, this is a big moment,” said Dr. Gordillo. “This is a pivotal moment. At that point in time you almost, you lose it, and you have to compose yourself and keep working.”

Dr. Gordillo diagnosed Florida’s first COVID-19 case in February last year at another local hospital. He says we’ve come a long way since that point and have learned a lot along the way, but we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

“It was not until December or January when the vaccine came along that we finally saw the real light at the end of the tunnel; we found a solution,” said Dr. Gordillo. “We are happy to say that Sarasota has embraced the vaccine. However, there are some out there that are waiting for the proper time to be vaccinated. This would be a perfect time to get vaccinated.”

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,600 COVID-positive patients have been hospitalized at SMH. Two hundred and fifty-four of those patients died.

The hospital’s ICU remained clear of COVID-positive patients Thursday.

“Obviously it could be something that just lasts for a day or two, but nowadays we will take any positive moment and a moment like this I think it is historic for us with everything that has happened,” said Dr. Gordillo. “All of what we have been through, it is just something that is a big moment and something that we really need to celebrate.”

The highest census in the COVID ICU unit came back in July last year when 31 people were admitted. The hospital’s highest overall COVID census was 130 patients, including those in the ICU.