(WSVN) - During the summer surge, the 7 Investigates team gave us an exclusive look inside Broward Health’s COVID units. Now, as cases climb yet again, just one station gets access again to see how things have changed. Here’s 7’s Kevin Ozebek.

For nine months now, Dr. Sunil Kumar has been leading the COVID-19 intensive care unit inside Broward Health Medical Center.

Dr. Sunil Kumar, Broward Health Medical Center: “I think we have been able to save a lot of lives.”

But without question, it has been a difficult year.

We first met Dr. Kumar this summer, when South Florida was the epicenter of the pandemic. This was him in July, as the Broward Health System was treating around 275 COVID patients a day.

Dr. Sunil Kumar: “It is physically tiring. I think it is emotionally exhausting.”

Since then, the case count has dropped.

This fall, the hospital system was only treating around 30 COVID positive patients a day, but that number has now surged up to around 60 to 70 patients a day.

Dr. Sunil Kumar: “I am worried. I am concerned. I think, Thanksgiving going into Christmas, there’s a lot of celebrations.”

But Nurse Sara Freeman says this surge is easier to handle because of COVID cocktails, which are mixtures of steroids and medications that reduce the levels of the virus and improve symptoms.

Sara Freeman, Broward Health Nurse: “The patients are less sick, so that frantic feeling that we had during the summer is not quite there.”

Back in July, we felt that frantic feeling in Nurse Freeman.

Sara Freeman: “There doesn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.”

Today…

Sara Freeman: “There does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.”

The reason why: in just days, the Food and Drug Administration may approve the Pfizer and Moderna-developed vaccines, paving the way for these front-line fighters to be inoculated against COVID-19.

Kevin Ozebek: “Are you amazed at how fast this has been developed?

Dave Lacknauth, Broward Health Executive Director of Pharmacy Services: “Actually shocked, very much so. There’s a lot of preparation we’ve got to do behind the scenes.”

Dave Lacknauth runs the in-patient pharmacy at Broward Health. This is a bustling place patients and visitors never see, and it’s where the vials of COVID vaccines will be stored.

Dave Lacknauth: “It’s not in our hands right now, but we are setting up the infrastructure right now, so as soon as you put it in my hands, I’m storing it.”

Right now, this freezer for pharmaceuticals is set at 16.7 degrees Celsius. A freezer like this is perfect for storing the Moderna vaccine that has to be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, but for the past two months, the pharmacists here at Broward Health have been sourcing freezers that can go even cooler.

Dave Lacknauth: “We manage our refrigerated devices in a way where we track the temperature daily, hourly, by the minute. If that temperature goes out of range, we have alarms sounding.”

That’s crucial, considering the Pfizer vaccine will have to be kept at 70 degrees below zero.

With his freezer infrastructure coming into place, Dave sees the end of the pandemic in sight.

Dave Lacknauth: “It’s the fourth quarter of the game, we’re up by a touchdown, the clock is now rolling down where we can just run the clock out. I think everyone needs to be mindful that we’re almost there.”

For Nurse Freeman, vaccination lessens the fear of passing COVID from a patient on to her three children.

Sara Freeman: “It gives us the ability to really come to work and feel safe.”

Kevin Ozebek: “And also, does it give you the ability to go home and feel safe?”

Sara Freeman: “Absolutely.”

Kevin Ozebek: “What do you think 2021 is going to be like?”

Dr. Sunil Kumar: “I am carefully optimistic.”

But Dr. Kumar also warns now is not the time to let your guard down. Nine months on, he’s still self-isolating from his family.

Dr. Sunil Kumar: “For me, my family is definitely important, so I definitely want to protect them from getting sick.”

He says, if he can do that, we can all follow what he calls the “three w’s”: washing our hands, watching our distance and wearing our masks.

CONTACT 7INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

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