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Valley care facilities report high vaccination numbers, open visitation

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 11:26 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The COVID-19 pandemic has made a big impact on health care facilities, and health care staff who worked to care for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Residents and staff at long-term care facilities were some of the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine when the new year rolled in. As facilities inch back to normalcy, care facilities in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are optimistic but cautious moving forward.

Crista Cabe with Bridgewater Retirement Community (BRC) helped lead their COVID-19 Response Team. She said daily COVID-19 briefings now only happen twice a week.

As more and more shots went into resident’s arms, a sigh of relief came for older adults and those caring for them.

“When our residents were getting their second shots, I had people doing air high fives. You could see the grins even behind their masks. There were fist pumps,” Cabe said. “People were just so relieved to pass that milestone.”

BRC nursing households, assisted living, and memory support residents can invite guests, but safe visits with social distancing and mask-wearing are still necessary.

Cabe said visitors must work with household leadership to set up a time and circumstances for a visit. All visits are in designated areas and infection prevention protocols must be followed.

Even with high vaccination rates among residents, that still does not change visitation guidelines, Cabe said.

“I think it’s going to be a long time before we have in-room, maskless visitation even given our vaccination status,” Cabe said.

“Regulations have not changed based on regulation status, but we’re kind of hoping that does happen so that if, for instance, a resident has a family member or loved one and they both have been vaccinated, can we allow them to enjoy a meal together even at a distance?” Cabe said.

At Sunnyside Retirement Community (SRC), assisted living and health care residents’ visits are welcome by appointment. Visitors must be screened and some small group activities and communal dining options are back for health care and assisted living residents.

“For the independent living side of the house, we are mostly fully open,” Charlotte Sibold, the Executive Director of SRC, said. “We have resumed dining, with the exception of one venue, which will open next week. Residents in independent living may have guests and we did allow them to start having overnight guests.”

Sibold said some independent living residents have said the food tastes better because they can now enjoy their meals together again.

“There’s a level of excitement on the campus that we haven’t felt in a while,” Sibold said.

Bekka Harsh, with the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), said they know VMRC is not out of the woods yet and continue to ensure precautions are being taken among residents, staff, and visitors.

“Residential living restrictions are slowly lifting,” Harsh said in an email. “Visitation has recently been expanded and beginning this month we will offer local shopping trips for up to 10 residents, classes and resident gatherings of 20 or fewer, and “to-go” service in the Main Street Café and Bakery.”

Bridgewater Retirement Community reports that over 95 percent of residents and over 70 percent of team members were vaccinated.

Sunnyside Retirement Community reports that around 98 percent of residents are vaccinated, and around 50 percent of staff are vaccinated.

More than 90 percent of residents and 60 percent of staff at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community have received both doses of the vaccine.

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