SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– 711 yellow hearts now line the windows of Mercy Hospital Springfield to honor the lives lost during the pandemic. 

Health leaders are also using the newly created memorial to reflect on the care they have given during the pandemic.

This reflection comes as the Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced Thursday, for the first time since July 4, 2020, the 7-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases in Greene County has dropped below 10 per day.

Mercy nurses said while this is good news now, it’s still important to remember it hasn’t always been that way.

“I see faces, I see names, I see exact moments,” said Jessica Arnold, a nurse at Mercy Hospital. “I see daughters, I see wives, husbands. I see those hearts and I can actually see a patient’s obituary.”

However, some said they shut out a lot of those memories.

“We don’t really like to think about that time because that’s something we don’t like to think about,” said Lacey Gates, a nurse at Mercy Hospital. “We’ve kind of closed that up and not thought about it since.”

Heath leaders said as they move forward, now is the time to focus on the lasting effects that come with the pandemic.

“It’s probably made me numb in a way,” said Gates. “I feel like now when tragic things happen in my life, I just feel kind of numb to it. Going into nursing school, not once did they ever teach me how to hold the hands of loved ones who are passing away, multiple times a day in a week.”

Nurses said they made sure no patient ever passed away alone. 

“Hearing 700 it’s kind of crazy, but when you lived it for those two years and we lost as many people as we did, it almost seems like we lost more,” said Arnold.

The current COVID-19 memorial is a temporary one.

Leaders at Mercy said they are currently thinking of ways to build a permanent memorial in the future.