As visitation resumes at S.C. long-term care facilities, studies suggest the vaccine is doing its job

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CAROLINA FOREST, S.C. (WBTW) – National reports indicate the vaccine is working by keeping those who live in long-term care facilities safe.

And local communities say they are noticing the same trend.

According to a study the American Health Care Association released, since the week of December 20, the number of Coronavirus-related deaths in long-term care facilities is down 91% while the number of new cases among residents is down 96%. The AHCA says this is because of the vaccine.

Micheal Fink, executive director of Brightwater Senior Living in Carolina Forest says he is noticing the same trend. “We started seeing cases decline rapidly, I would say mid-January.”

He said 99% of members in the independent living section of Brightwater got a vaccine, while 100% of residents with higher levels of healthcare got the shot.

“Our members really wanted to get back to normal and a lot of our members did their own research,” Fink said. “We did a lot of educational speaking. We met with our members, our team members, on a daily, weekly basis to give them the option and material to make an educated decision about whether they wanted to get the vaccination.”

For 4-year-Brightwater resident Julia Hamm, getting the vaccine was a no-brainer.
“It’s just the best feeling in the world to know that you don’t have to worry about sitting next to somebody,” she said. “Even shaking hands, although we don’t do that much anymore, but life is normal.”

Recently DHEC instructed long-term care facilities to begin allowing visitation again so long as it is in a county where the positivity rate is less than 10% and they haven’t had a Coronavirus case in the past 14 days.

Fink says employees and residents were glad to see visitation resume.

“To see their emotions now, being able to see their loved ones daily, it just brings so much joy to all of us,” he said.

Julia agrees. “It’s made all the difference in the world because we were here for nearly a year with family nearby and unable to visit,” she explained. “Particularly in the health side of Brightwater, the family couldn’t get in to see their sick relatives and the members needed the support of their family. It was really very difficult.”

Fink says because nearly all residents received a vaccine, they are no longer required to wear masks, however, they are still tested once a week alongside employees.

Visitors are required to wear a mask at Brightwater.

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