A nurse at the Seattle suburban nursing home that was ravaged by America’s first cluster of coronavirus cases sat next to a visiting pharmacist on Monday, rolled up her blue shirt sleeve and received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine administered in the establishment.
It was the start of what residents, families and employees hope will be a turning point in a pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of people in long-term care facilities. On Monday, the Walgreens and CVS vaccination teams were moving to facilities across the country, the start of a long and difficult campaign to immunize some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
At the facility near Seattle, the Kirkland Life Care Center, which is linked to 46 coronavirus deaths, relatives of residents received a text message Monday morning alerting them that vaccinations were starting.
Colleen Mallory was waiting for this moment. Her mother suffers from severe dementia, and since Life Care was locked down last winter, they have visited her mainly by standing in front of her window, waving to her and saying “I love you” .
Ms Mallory’s family allowed Life Care to vaccinate her mother, and Ms Mallory said she called and called, anxious to know if this had actually happened. “I can’t reach anyone,” she said. “It would be nice to know.”
Alice Cortez, the first nurse to be vaccinated at the facility, said she felt “a new life, a new beginning, but a better life,” the Seattle Times reported. There were roses and cheers as she was injected just outside the facility, with cameras on.
The scene was quite different last winter, when the quiet, shady nursing home turned into a scene of dark vigil and daily updates on deaths and the number of cases. Journalists gathered outside the locked facility as ambulances drove residents to hospital and families looked through windows to check on parents and grandparents.
Life Care officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about the number of staff and residents who had been vaccinated on Monday, or how long it would take to get them all vaccinated.