GRANBY, Conn — After months of death and tragedy in our nursing homes, there is finally some good news. There is evidence that the COVID vaccine is working. It's been just one week since the last long-term care facility got the first dose of the vaccine and already the deaths and infections are dropping.
Those who got their shot of hope, like Earle Edwards of Meadow Brook in Granby, are seeing that hope transform into reality. How is he feeling? "Well. It hasn’t bothered me," said Edwards. Earle survived COVID once. "Kind of tough breathing. Not being able to move that much. A lot of medicines. I don’t feel as if I want to go through it again," he said.
The numbers bear out the good news. For this most recent week of reported data, nursing homes across Connecticut saw a 35% drop in resident infections and a 23% decrease in deaths compared to the previous week. Infections in staff have plummeted too by nearly 31%. Christine Tkacz, a Regional Administrator for Athena said there is, "Still, lots of work ahead of us but we are starting to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
The state has said about 90% of nursing home residents have opted to get the vaccine but only about 40% of staff. Connecticut's long-term care industry has many minority females of childbearing age who are grappling with issues of vaccine hesitancy. "We have gone two full weeks currently without any positive residents or positive staff members," remarked Tkacz.
Medical experts have said the first dose of the COVID vaccine gives you about 50% immunity, so it stands to reason that as nursing homes complete their second dose by the end of January, you’ll see deaths and infections drop precipitously in February when immunity reaches 95%. "We are hoping to see that start to happen in February," said CT Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe.
It’s great news for staff and residents and their families who have struggled with months of pain, heartbreak, and loneliness. What will it be like for Earle Edwards to give his family a hug again? "I don’t know, it’s going to be one great thing I’ll tell you that right now!" he said.
While the nursing home data looks much improved, infections actually increased a bit in the assisted living facilities. But remember, they were given the vaccine after the nursing homes so it may still take another week or so before we see those numbers drop too.