AVERY COUNTY — As vaccines continue to be administered to Avery County residents, the effects of the vaccine rollout are beginning to be felt in some of the areas that were hit hardest by the pandemic, such as assisted living facilities, which are beginning to reopen visitation for residents’ families.
Appointments for first doses of the vaccines continue to be available at the Avery County Agricultural Extension facility. The first dose clinic for the week of April 5 to 9 will be held on Thursday, April 8, and interested parties can call the vaccine hotline at (828) 733-8273 to make an appointment to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The clinic to receive the second dose of the vaccine is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, April 7 and 8, at the Avery County Agricultural Extension building. The county reminds recipients to bring their white vaccine appointment card. To reschedule an appointment to receive the second dose, call the Avery County Health Department at (828) 733-6031.
Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier reports that the county is administering 400 first doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, as well as a total of 550 second doses. Those who are eligible to receive the vaccine now includes everyone 18 years of age or older, which also encompasses previously eligible groups, such as healthcare workers, nursing homes residents and staff, those who are 65 and older, essential workers and individuals with underlying health conditions.
Additionally, the county has created a wait list for those who would like to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Barrier said that the county has made a request to the state to receive the one-and-done vaccines due to demand from county residents. Moreover, there are no mobile clinics planned this week, and COVID-19 tests remain available at the Avery County Pool Complex.
As of the morning of Monday, April 5, the county has booked 173 appointments for its first dose clinic on Thursday and has about 200 slots available that need to be filled. Barrier said that the number of people who are waiting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to become available may be one reason why it is taking longer to fill appointments.
“It’s kind of slowed down. We had four days to take appointments last week, and we used to fill them up in two days,” Barrier said.
Meanwhile, the county continues to outpace much of the surrounding region in terms of the percentage of its population that is being vaccinated from the COVID-19 virus.
As of April 5, Avery County has administered 5,371 first doses of the vaccine and 3,653 second doses, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data. Avery County has currently fully vaccinated 20.8 percent of its 18,000 official residents, while at least 30.6 percent of residents are partially vaccinated. For the week of March 29, the state recorded a larger portion of second doses of the vaccine being administered than first doses, with 211,470 second doses and 155,771 first doses administered.
Statewide, a total of 1,923,646 second dose vaccines have been administered, while 3,145,064 first doses have been administered. Additionally, 141,561 single-shot vaccines have been administered and a total of 5,210,271 shots have been administered overall.
To find nearby private providers who offer the vaccine, click to myspot.nc.gov.
Nursing homes begin welcoming residents’ families back for visitation
When the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines was first announced at the beginning of the year, this news was accompanied with the further revelation that the federal government was partnering with Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy in order to administer vaccines to nursing home staff and residents, the population most vulnerable to the virus.
Now, three months later, these same facilities are beginning to take steps to allow the families of residents to see and visit their loved ones, while also continuing to take practical precautions to ensure their safety. Dee Brooks, division director of clinical services for ALG Senior, elaborated on the process that took place to get vaccines into the arms of staff and residents. ALG Senior provides clinical services to 20 senior communities in western NC, including Cranberry House.
“Our partnership with CVS was fantastic. We had really clear schedules of when the team would be there. As with anything, we worked out a few of the little kinks. It didn’t take very long to get a system and a rhythm going. We could not have asked for a better partnership,” Brooks said.
Brooks said that the teams with ALG Senior and CVS worked to create a positive atmosphere as the vaccination effort was under way. Three clinic dates were held, with first doses being administered at the beginning of January and second doses being completed in February, while another make up day was held in February as well.
“I said this at each of the clinics to residents and staff as they came in. I said, ’You are making history. Doing this puts you in the history books, because 50 years from now or 100 years from now when students in class are being taught the history of the pandemic of 2020, you may not be named as an individual who changed the course of this pandemic, but you are part of that, because taking this vaccine will help us eradicate this virus,” Brooks said.
At the Cranberry House, 90 percent of the residents have been vaccinated, as well as 82 percent of the staff. As a division, across the 20 communities in western NC, 80 percent of staff and residents have also completed the vaccine sequence. Moreover, Brooks reported that no positive cases among residents or staff have been reported since the vaccination effort began in January.
“I am thrilled beyond words with that metric,” Brooks said.
In response to these metrics, ALG Senior updated its visitation guidance last month. In-person visits are allowed both inside and outside the facilities, although in-person visitation is preceded by screenings, hand washing, social distancing, the wearing of face masks and the utilization of rapid COVID-19 tests upon request. Last Fall, outside visitation was allowed with precautions in place, before the facility transitioned to window visitation. Compassionate care standards also remain in effect.
“We have experienced the joy of reconnection in our communities. This has certainly provided all of us a greater appreciation for what connection means. It’s been really beautiful to see these examples and joy on our residents’ faces as they see their families in person,” Brooks said.
Visitors to the Cranberry House can call (828) 733-5558 or click to newlandseniors.com.