A nurse at the suburban Seattle nursing home that was ravaged by the first U.S. cluster of coronavirus cases sat down beside a visiting pharmacist on Monday, pulled up her blue shirtsleeve and received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine administered at the facility.
It was the beginning 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. Vaccination teams from Walgreens and CVS were fanning out to facilities across the country on Monday, the start of a long, difficult campaign to vaccinate some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
At the facility near Seattle, the Life Care Center of Kirkland, which is connected with 46 coronavirus deaths, relatives of residents got a text message on Monday morning alerting them that vaccinations were beginning.
Colleen Mallory had been waiting for this moment. Her mother has severe dementia, and since Life Care was locked down last winter, they have visited her mostly by standing outside her window, waving and saying “I love you.”
Ms. Mallory’s family gave Life Care permission to vaccinate her mother, and Ms. Mallory said she had been calling and calling, anxious to know whether it had actually happened. “I can’t get ahold of anyone,” she said. “It would be nice to know.”
Alice Cortez, the first nurse 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 rolling.
The scene was starkly different last winter, when the quiet, shaded nursing home became a scene of grim vigil and daily updates about deaths and case counts. Journalists clustered outside the locked-down facility as ambulances whisked residents to the hospital and families peered through windows to check on parents and grandparents.
Life Care officials did not immediately reply to inquiries about how many staff members and residents were vaccinated on Monday, or how long it would take to vaccinate them all.
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