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COVID-19 outbreak, not vaccine, to blame for deaths at nursing home in Auburn

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Outdoor Church Service 1.JPG

Westminster Presbyterian Church Rev. Patrick Heery performs a livestream outdoor service of healing and prayer at The Commons on St. Anthony for residents and staff. The nursing home has been besieged with more than 180 COVID-19 cases and more than 20 deaths.

A viral social media post and an article published on an obscure website falsely suggest that there may be a link between the timing of COVID-19 vaccinations and deaths at an Auburn nursing home. 

The posts refer to reporting about the COVID-19 outbreak at The Commons on St. Anthony in Auburn. More than 180 employees and residents at the facility have tested positive for the virus. At least 28 residents have died after testing positive for COVID-19. 

The authors of the posts, which The Citizen isn't disclosing to prevent the spread of false and misleading information, raise the possibility that there is a connection between the deaths and the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine at the nursing home. 

However, there are key facts omitted from the claims. The Commons, which is operated by Loretto, began vaccinating employees and residents on Dec. 22. Before the first vaccination clinic, the nursing home already had a COVID-19 outbreak. Julie Sheedy, a Loretto spokesperson, told The Citizen that the outbreak began in December after Thanksgiving. 

"Given the incubation period that we know for this virus, our facility was affected before vaccines were available to be administered," Sheedy wrote in an email Monday. "We certainly wish the vaccines had been available sooner to help prevent the devastation caused by this virus." 

Sheedy criticized the "dangerously speculative and factually incorrect" claims made on the purported medical website. She added that Loretto hopes the community "knows not to trust unverified information — whether on the web, social media or heard in-person." 

More than 80% of the nursing home's residents — nearly 200 people — received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 22. The second dose will be administered at a clinic on Tuesday. First doses will be administered to those who didn't receive the initial inoculation in December. 

Nearly half of the facility's employees received the first dose of the vaccine last month. The remaining employees will receive their first dose at the second vaccination clinic. Sheedy said that approach is in accordance with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which recommends not vaccinating all employees on the same day in case they experience side effects. 

The CDC released facts about the COVID-19 vaccine, which also debunk claims or suggestions that there is a connection between the vaccine and deaths at The Commons. One of the first questions answered by the agency is, "Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?" The answer is no because, as the CDC explains, none of the vaccines that have been approved or are in development "contain the live virus that causes COVID-19." 

"This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19," the CDC added. 

Both of the approved vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer require two doses. While it's unknown how many of the residents at The Commons who died of COVID-19 received their first dose, they did not get their second. 

"That means it's possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick," the CDC explained. "This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection." 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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