The mood at Commonwealth Senior Living in Front Royal on Wednesday was one of excitement and hope as 101 residents and employees met to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
For the first of three clinics, Executive Director Amber Foster said the assisted living and memory care facility planned to vaccinate 39 of its 63 employees and 62 of its 70 residents.
Another round on Feb. 3 will vaccinate the remaining residents and staff, as well as provide booster shots for the first round of patients. A final clinic on Feb. 24 will provide the remaining booster shots.
“I think splitting it up is working better,” Foster said.
Anticipating side-effects from the vaccines, she said the plan would limit the number of employees potentially absent at one time.
But while there are some unknowns that come with a new vaccine, Foster said she and others at the facility are looking forward to the day when they can ease off of COVID restrictions, such as social distancing and limited visitation.
“We’ve been COVID now for almost a year,” she said. “The residents are very excited. … They’ve been isolated quite a bit.”
Elsewhere in the valley, vaccinations are available to people 75 or older, their spouses or live-in partners, and certain front-line essential workers identified as part of Virginia’s Phase 1a and 1b categories, which include health-care workers, first-responders, police and K-12 teachers and staff.
Residents and staff of long-term care facilities are part of Phase 1a, which is running concurrently with parts of Phase 1b. Plans for when to start Phase 1c, which includes people 65 and older and other essential employees, have not been announced yet.
A Friday vaccination Point of Dispensing (POD) clinic in Clarke County has been moved to Berryville to accommodate expected crowds.
The no-cost vaccines for people 75 and older had been scheduled at the Boyce Fire Hall, but it was moved after a POD held there on Monday attracted 910 people, all of whom were vaccinated.
The new location will be at Clarke County High School, 627 Mosby Blvd., Berryville, from 8 a.m. to noon, the Lord Fairfax Health District announced in a Tuesday evening news release.
To protect yourself and health-care workers, wear a cloth face covering or mask and keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others at all times, the release states.
The health district asks that people not arrive early, since doors won’t open until 8 a.m. and early arrivals risk unnecessary exposure to weather conditions.
People should also consider staggering their arrival times “to avoid surges and longer waits,” the release states. Everyone who signs in before noon is expected to receive their vaccines.
The Health Department also asks for patience while it focuses on vaccinating the over 75 population and their spouses or live-in partners.
“[I]f you miss this one, there will be many more,” the release states.
In addition to the Health Department’s PODs, Valley Health is offering registration to receive the free vaccine at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center at Shenandoah University, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Warren Memorial Hospital and Page Memorial Hospital.
Appointments are required and walk-ins will not be accepted.
Registration for Valley Health PODs is available at tinyurl.com/y3xjz77e.
While many other assisted-living facilities have seen spikes in cases throughout the pandemic, Foster said Commonwealth of Front Royal has been lucky to escape the worst of the virus.
The facility didn’t see any cases until November, she said, and even then the few cases they saw were gone within a month, never rising to “outbreak” status.
She credits the facility’s health procedures and the staff members’ vigilance in protecting themselves while out in the community with helping prevent more cases from cropping up.
“We’ve done very, very well,” she said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
However, she said they’ll all be glad when they can start letting residents visit more with their families and return to group activities.
To accommodate restrictions, she said the staff has come up with some fun ideas to keep spirits up, such as one-on-one activities throughout the year and a “cocktail hour” holiday cart that went door to door with appetizers.
“It’s been fun and challenging in a good way,” she said.
Also, families have been supportive, she said. It’s helped to know “we’re all in this together.”