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Vaccines improve COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities

Residents of long-term care facilities were among the first to get vaccinated earlier this year.

COLORADO, USA — In a year filled with so much uncertainty, optimism is beginning to find its way back into our lives.

Nowhere has the impact of the vaccine been greater than inside senior care centers. More than 1,500 people living inside these facilities have died from COVID-19 in Colorado.

"I don’t think I’ve ever been as optimistic as I am right now. Just because of the vaccine," said Randy Fitzgerald, Regional Vice President for the Good Samaritan Society. "We were starting to see our numbers go down, but once the vaccines came out, then they just started to plummet."

Plummet to their lowest point since the pandemic began. Fitzgerald oversees seven nursing homes and senior living facilities, housing 900 people in Colorado for the Good Samaritan Society. Today, he says they have zero reported cases of COVID-19.

"There were times I didn’t ever think we’d get to zero," said Fitzgerald. "We were fighting this thing seven days a week. Our facilities were locked down. We had staff members who were working seven days a week, multiple shifts."

Data released by the state shows the number of cases inside long-term care facilities is declining rapidly. The number of cases began falling once the vaccine began being administered in January. Compared to the rest of the state, the percentage of deaths at long-term care facilities has also declined. Back in June, nearly 65% of all COVID-19 deaths in Colorado were from long-term care facilities. The number now is close to 25%.

While state guidance still imposes a severe limit on visitors inside long-term care facilities, loved ones are once again allowed to visit inside.

"We’re going to start to open up. We’re going to start to get residents and families reacquainted with each other," said Fitzgerald. "The vaccine has been our golden ticket out, so to speak."

Rules for visiting loved ones inside long-term care facilities vary by location and county. It’s all based on the positivity rate and virus spread in certain areas.

Along with masks, social distancing and health screenings, vaccines have opened the doors to being together once again.

"It’s just hard to imagine where we were three, four, five months ago to where we are now," said Fitzgerald. "That’s why we’re so optimistic about what’s going to happen in the next couple of months."

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