Local assisted living facilities and nursing homes, whose residents have lived under various states of lockdown for the past nine months, will be able to vaccinate residents and employees against COVID-19 beginning the first two weeks of 2021.
Leaders at both Cantata Adult Life Services in Brookfield and Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care in North Riverside both received word from their pharmacy partners on Dec. 21 that the vaccine would soon be on the way.
On Monday, Cantata’s pharmacy partner CVS informed officials there that residents and employees would be getting their first doses of the vaccine on Saturday, Jan. 2. However, that date has now been postponed to a later, still unconfirmed date in January, according to Kevin Heraty, chief development officer at Cantata.
Meanwhile, Walgreens informed Caledonia Senior Living that vaccines would be administered there on Jan. 12.
“We got the news about the vaccine on the winter solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year,” said Gus Noble, president of Chicago Scots, which operates Caledonia, in a text message. “From here days get longer and lighter. They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn.”
The scheduling process, of course, doesn’t end with the first round of shots. The COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses, with the second required within 21 to 28 days, depending on which vaccine is being administered.
So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines from the manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna.
Priority for vaccine distribution is being given to counties in Illinois that have been hardest hit, per capita, by COVID-19. Suburban Cook County is somewhere in the middle of that list.
The lockdowns at both Cantata and Caledonia have been fairly strict throughout the pandemic, even as the spread of the virus eased during the summer months. Noble confirmed that as of late last week, no residents at Caledonia had contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic, although 12 staff employees and three agency employees have tested positive and were required to isolate and test negative before returning to work.
As of late last week, Cantata also had no resident test positive for COVID-19 since Nov. 22, although since the pandemic began in March nine residents have contracted the disease, according to a resident/staff case dashboard on Cantata’s website. None of the cases has been fatal.
According to that database, 34 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at Cantata since the pandemic swept through the area, but just two employees have tested positive since Nov. 22.
Noble said he meets weekly with staff to reinforce a common commitment to safe practices both at work and at home.
“The whole point is to make sure everyone knows we’re all in this together, and let them know I’m making a personal commitment to them to do everything I can,” Noble said. “I ask in return for the same commitment. … Those conversations have helped us all bond with one another.”
Naturally, employees are eager to find out more about when vaccines will be administered locally and Noble said it’s been positive that the “flicker of hope” for a vaccine during the early months of the pandemic is brighter now.
But, Noble cautioned that just because the vaccine is being rolled out, Caledonia will not simply fling the doors back open soon.
“We’re not going to be able to rest until well beyond this,” Noble said. “We’re going to be in some form of lockdown until there’s herd immunity.”
Health experts have said that herd immunity won’t be reached until about 80 percent of all residents are vaccinated. In Illinois alone, that’s about 8 million people.
“I don’t see us fully opening up [soon],” Noble said. “It’s going to take months for us to be more open in our operation.”
This story originally appeared on the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark website.