Local nursing facilities offer COVID-19 vaccine to residents, staff

Marissa Meahl chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to protect herself, her family, the community and her co-workers and the residents at Lutheran Community Home.

On Monday, the Seymour senior living community was the first in Jackson County to host a vaccine clinic for staff members and residents.

Executive Director Karyn Fleetwood said 91% of the 223 residents were vaccinated, and between this clinic and the one at Columbus Regional Health, 36% of her 255 staff members have been vaccinated.

The residents will receive their second dose Feb. 1. Any resident or staff member who has yet to receive the vaccine can do so that day, and another clinic will be conducted for the second dose.

“Having the opportunity to vaccinate our residents and staff members is an amazing breakthrough in working our way back to a more normal environment,” Meahl said. “Our residents are so vulnerable, and to be able to help protect them with this vaccination is invaluable. I want to see the joy on the faces of our residents and their loved ones when they are finally allowed to visit and hug each other.”

Alisha Nichols is a registered nurse who works on the rehab-to-home unit and has taken care of almost every COVID-19 positive resident in the facility and several who needed to quarantine.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Fleetwood said 35 residents and 47 employees have tested positive for the virus, and three residents have died from the virus.

“It has been so hard to see these residents missing their families and not being able to attend group activities,” Nichols said. “Having been positive for COVID myself last summer, I know how hard it was to be isolated from friends and family, and that was only for two weeks. I cannot imagine having to endure that isolation for going on 10 months.”

Nichols received her first vaccine around Christmas and will get her booster next week.

“I am so excited to have a vaccine available to protect myself and, more importantly, my residents,” she said. “This is the first step to get back to normal and reunite families with their loved ones.”

In mid-October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a pharmacy partnership with CVS and Walgreens to provide vaccination services to nursing homes and assisted living providers.

Once emergency use approval was granted for the Moderna vaccine, LCH was contacted by CVS to set clinics.

“This vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel for us,” Fleetwood said. “It is a solution to the end of our mitigation strategies and hopefully the next step to get us back to normal operations. Given the impact this virus has had on our residents and families, it was imperative that our staff and residents be vaccinated.”

While staff members are not required to get the vaccine, Fleetwood said they are focused on education and strongly encouraging it. She received the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 21, and her second dose is set for Monday.

Since the pandemic’s start, Fleetwood said more than 1,000 PCR tests and 4,000 rapid swabs have been administered at LCH.

Also, more than $160,000 has been spent on testing supplies, not including the staff time to perform the tests; more than $60,000 has gone toward buying personal protective equipment; and there has been $70,000 in additional staff wages to accommodate changes necessary.

To keep residents safe, LCH closed its doors to visitation March 12, 2020.

“Not only are they isolated from their family members, they are isolated from one another inside the building since we had to discontinue communal dining and activities,” Fleetwood said.

If anyone in the community is undecided about getting the vaccine, she said she would ask that they do it for the residents and health care workers.

“It takes us all doing our part to combat this virus, and this is one more thing that we all need to do,” Fleetwood said.

Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown will have its first vaccine clinic Wednesday. Christian Horizons selected Walgreens as its pharmacy partner for clinics at its 12 facilities.

HCV Executive Director Krista Garrison said around 100 staff and residents have signed up to receive the Moderna vaccine. Another clinic will be set up for the second dose.

“We feel this is the beginning of opening our doors and allowing our families to spend quality time with their loved ones,” Garrison said. “I feel it is my duty to receive the vaccine to assist in mitigating the spread of the virus and allow us to be one step closer to loved ones being able to hug their family members.”

She said 31 HCV staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since September and 26 residents have tested positive since October. Four residents have died with complications secondary to COVID-19.

While the pandemic has been very trying at times, Garrison said the support of the home office, her team and the residents and their families has been amazing.

“Our community is what has helped us to fight through each challenge, including moving residents from their ‘homes’ to different areas in the community in order to create green, yellow and eventually a red zone,” she said. “Our clinical team proved their dedication and loyalty to resident care with continuously picking up unscheduled hours and changing their assignments as residents and staff were identified with any symptoms.”

Schneck Medical Center providers offered support and utilized telehealth visits as needed to ensure HCV residents were treated promptly for any issues, environmental services staff changed their schedules and routines to focus on high-touch surface areas and dining staff rearranged their schedule multiple times due to no longer being able to offer communal dining.

Plus, three National Guard members came in the fall to assist with various duties to free up the clinical team, including screening employees at the beginning of their shift and assisting with COVID-19 testing.

Garrison said since September, testing has been weekly for HCV’s 90 residents and twice a week for the 145 staff members.

Like Fleetwood, Garrison sees the vaccine as a light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic.

“I feel excited and refreshed to know we can begin with this and then hopefully a plan to open back up,” Garrison said. “I have been trying to provide as much information to our residents and team regarding the vaccine. I feel education is the best response to those who are hesitant. We have plenty of resources to research the vaccine, and sharing this information is vital.”

Covered Bridge Health Campus in Seymour is hosting a vaccine clinic Jan. 22. Missy Robinson, assistant director of nursing, said Walgreens is providing and administering the vaccine.

“We have all but three of our residents wanting the vaccine, which is great,” she said. “Several staff have already been vaccinated at CRH, and others are waiting on our clinic the 22nd.”

Seymour Place’s parent company, Enlivant, is working with HHS, Walgreens/Remedi and state and local governments to distribute the vaccine to its employees and residents, said Louis Kievit, vice president of sales and customer engagement.

Seymour Crossing’s parent company, American Senior Communities, is partnering with CVS and Omnicare to offer the vaccine to residents and staff.