As one Auburn nursing home copes with a COVID-19 outbreak, hope arrived on Tuesday in the form of a vaccination that could prevent more people, especially vulnerable residents, from contracting the virus.
The Commons on St. Anthony is the first Cayuga County nursing home to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to its employees and residents. The facility, which is owned by Loretto, partnered with PharmScripts, a pharmacy that provides services to long-term care facilities, to hold the first vaccination clinic.
According to Julie Sheedy, Loretto's chief marketing officer, 226 of The Commons' 259 residents and 130 employees received their first dose of the vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses, the second of which will be administered in three weeks.
Sheedy said that nearly 50% of the facility's staff received their first dose on Tuesday. More could sign up to get their first round of shots at the second clinic on Jan. 12.
Stacy Mullin, a registered nurse at The Commons, was the first employee to be vaccinated. She is also among the first in Cayuga County to receive the vaccine. There were some Auburn Community Hospital nurses who were vaccinated on Monday.
"It's one step forward to returning to the real normal versus the normal we've all been living for the last nine months," Mullin said.
The arrival of the vaccine comes as Cayuga County and the rest of the country are reporting spikes in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The county has more than 3,500 residents who have either tested positive for the virus or are quarantined due to contact with positive cases. In December, there have been more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases — a monthly record during the pandemic.
It's been difficult for nursing homes and other congregate facilities to prevent outbreaks of the virus during this recent surge. The Commons has 26 positive cases among its residents, Sheedy confirmed to The Citizen on Tuesday. The residents have been moved to a COVID unit within the facility. The staff remains in that unit to treat the residents.
Because of the outbreak, The Commons implemented droplet precaution protocols that require the use of full personal protective equipment — face shields, gowns and gloves — when caring for residents.
"We NEED the community to follow safety guidelines as the virus is continuing to spike in our community," Sheedy said. "Wear your mask, social distance, wash your hands and stay home whenever possible."
Two other Cayuga County nursing homes will begin vaccinating residents and staff this week. Finger Lakes Center for Living, which is operated by Auburn Community Hospital, will begin inoculating its employees and residents on Wednesday. Northwoods Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Moravia will administer its first doses on Saturday.
The first vaccine doses arrived in New York last week. Vaccines produced by two pharmaceutical companies, Moderna and Pfizer, have been approved by federal regulators. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state will receive 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 120,000 doses from Pfizer this week.
Health care workers and nursing home residents are being prioritized in the first round of vaccinations. As of Monday, New York administered 38,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — the most in the country.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.