Capital Region — The effort to vaccinate nursing home residents and employees against COVID-19 comes amid a surge in infections nationwide and a resulting uptick in infections and deaths at some facilities.
Among those affected in the race against the accelerating pandemic are Wesley Health Care Center in Saratoga Springs and the Glendale Home in Glenville which respectively have seen 13 and three deaths in recent days.
Nursing homes are typically populated by the frail and elderly people who are most vulnerable to the virus. The death toll in some facilities was heartbreakingly high during the first wave of the pandemic, and nursing home residents and employees nationwide have been given top priority for vaccination.
Unfortunately, the second wave of the pandemic had a jump on the vaccine rollout. Across the Capital Region, hospitalization and positive test rates have repeatedly hit one-day highs this month.
Here’s how this confluence of factors has affected the two local facilities:
In a prepared statement Wednesday, The Wesley Community said it had administered more than 440 vaccinations at its Wesley Health Care facility, a 342-bed long-term nursing home and short-term rehab facility. More than 80 percent of the 300 current residents have received the first of two shots, and a lesser percentage of the 475 employees.
The vaccine became available too late for some: 13 residents have died since Dec. 13, and 34 more were confirmed infected as of Wednesday. Additionally, 33 employees are currently COVID-positive.
Since it began infecting Americans, the virus has affected assisted and independent living facilities for healthy senior citizens much less severely than nursing homes, and that is proving to be the case in the Wesley Community. Elsewhere on the campus, the Woodlawn Common Assisted Living and Embury Apartments have one COVID-positive resident each.
In its statement, the Wesley Community said:
“We have been striving from the earliest days of the pandemic to keep our residents safe and protected with comprehensive efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The first COVID-19 positive case among our residents did not occur until November 9, nearly nine months after the start of the pandemic.”
It called this record evidence both of the dedication of its staff and the insidious nature of the virus, and said the state Department of Health found no deficiencies in four separate evaluations.
Wesley is posting a detailed daily update on its website about the situation within its campus. Assessing the situation at many other facilities can be difficult, as the state listing of nursing home deaths is famously incomplete and some facilities provide little or no information on their websites.
Glendale Home is in a similar situation: It avoided infection and death for the longest time, then was hit just as the vaccine was on the horizon.
The nursing home operated by Schenectady County saw no resident infections or deaths during the first wave of the pandemic that reached New York state March 1.
More recently, a cumulative total of 19 patients and 19 employees have been confirmed infected. Ten of each group still had active infections as of Wednesday, Schenectady County Administrator Rory Fluman said.
Three residents have died.
However, the facility is off to a very good start in blocking future infections.
Nearly all long-term residents of Glendale Home have now received the first round of the COVID vaccine.
This past weekend, Fluman said, “We vaccinated 150 patients with the Pfizer vaccine through the federal Warp Speed program.”
There currently are 180 residents in the 200-bed facility, but 25 of them are short-term rehab patients who likely will be discharged before they would get the second dose of vaccine that must be administered for recipients to gain maximum immunity.
The protocol is for such patients to get the first dose after discharge (if they are still eligible for early vaccination at that point) at a place where they’ll easily be able to return for the second dose.
The other five Glendale residents who were not vaccinated declined the shots, or their families did, Fluman said.
Additionally, 110 of the facility’s 230 employees were vaccinated, with priority given to direct-care providers. The rest are eligible to be vaccinated elsewhere — such as at the county’s vaccination clinic in Schenectady on Thursday.
Fluman said the process went well, with one apparent panic attack but zero adverse physical reactions to the vaccine.
“I don’t know if we were just lucky, but it was a really good weekend,” he said.