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For Some Long-Term Care Residents, COVID-19 Vaccine Signals A Reprieve From Loneliness

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Long-term care residents and staff are in the highest priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine because they have been hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks. The residents are more at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. For many of the residents, the vaccine also offers the hope of a return to normal life.

Karen Fleetwood lives at Edgewood Spring Creek Manor American Falls, an assisted living center. This week, a team of Walgreens pharmacists visited the facility to vaccinate Fleetwood, and other residents and staff, against the coronavirus.

Thirty minutes after getting the shot, Fleetwood was feeling okay.

“I feel fine except for my arm is a little bit sore," she said. "Kind of like maybe somebody punched it or something.” Fleetwood is 66. She’s been careful to avoid potential exposure to the virus and she said getting the vaccine means she can get back to her normal life. 

“I took the shot because I want to get out of lockdown,” she said.

 
 

Since the pandemic began, Edgewood Spring in American Falls has had 10 COVID-19 cases and one death. It’s a lot less than many other long-term care facilities in the state.

 

Still, when someone tests positive, the facility restricts residents’ movements more. There’s still weekly bingo, and other activities. But Fleetwood says the quiet and the loneliness are taking a toll. 

 

“There’s nobody out in the hallways. There’s nobody out. I think people are scared that they might get the virus," she said.

Fleetwood longs being able to visit her family members. Sometimes one of her daughters comes by the American Falls facility, but they meet outside, even if it’s cold. For Christmas, they met briefly in the parking lot. 

 

"We just sat out back in the dark and it was freezing. And that was my Christmas," she said.

 

The pharmacists from Walgreens will return in three weeks to give Fleetwood her second dose of the vaccine. She's excited, but she’s learned this year not to get too hopeful. She knows it could be weeks, or even months, before the rules change to allow more movement in and out of the facilities.

 

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen  

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