Hugh Barnett, a 104-year-old resident of Asbury Place Maryville, got his second COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday and is poised to defeat his second worldwide pandemic after surviving the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak.
Blount County long-term care facilities are wrapping up their COVID-19 vaccination clinics — marking a probable end to the havoc wreaked by the virus on its most vulnerable population.
The Tennessee Department of Health reported 2,046,420 doses administered at long-term care facilities as of March 3.
The state used CVS Pharmacy to inoculate most facility residents. CVS reported vaccinations were complete in 92 Tennessee skilled nursing facilities. First-dose vaccination clinics in 323 assisted living centers statewide also were finished, and 93% of facilities had completed second-dose clinics.
Asbury Place Maryville had its final resident vaccination clinic on Wednesday, March 3.
Asbury spokeswoman Cathy Canning said all residents had been offered the vaccine, and 95% of the facility’s assisted living residents and 85% of skilled nursing facility residents had opted to get the shots.
“It was a great vaccine clinic,” Asbury Vice President of Tennessee Operations Melissa Fury said. “Residents are so appreciative, and we are excited and proud to have so many Asbury Place residents vaccinated!”
Barnett’s father, a physician during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, had to quarantine away from the rest of the family when he contracted the flu.
“So Hugh has successfully survived two global pandemics!,” Canning said.
The state health department recently lifted visitation restrictions at long-term care facilities statewide, allowing visitors if the facility has not had a positive coronavirus case in 14 days.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported an 82% decline in new COVID-19 cases among long-term care facility residents since the peak during the week of Dec. 20, when there were more than 30,000 new resident cases.
“We still have a long road ahead, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly every day for a year to protect our residents,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said in a press release. “This new data showcases just how important it is for nursing home residents and staff, as well as the general public, to get the vaccine because it is clearly working.”
TDH reported only four long-term care facilities in Blount County had positive coronavirus cases in the past 28 days.
Asbury is listed as the facility with the most recent case, which was reported Feb. 24.
CMS data also shows that coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes declined by 63% since Dec. 20.
TDH does not provide collective data on the number of long-term care facility deaths; however, 69% of COVID-19 deaths reported by the state have been in people ages 71 and older.
COVID-19 isn’t only decreasing in long-term care facilities. As Tennessee’s vaccines roll out on schedule — with a third, Johnson & Johnson, added to the state’s mix Wednesday, March 3 — case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths are decreasing steadily.
The first four days of March saw 105 new cases, four hospitalizations and two deaths in Blount, TDH data shows. Those Blount numbers for the first four days of February were 182 cases, eight hospitalizations and seven deaths.
“Today, I am guardedly optimistic,” Blount Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore said at the Feb. 23 hospital board of directors meeting. “I believe we have a chance to be over the worst of this pandemic. Here and across the country, we are clearly on a steep decline.”
But now’s not the time to ease up on COVID-19 protocols, he said. Social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing hands are still crucial to fighting the virus, preventing hospitalizations and sparing lives, he said.
Above all, Naramore said getting vaccines into arms is paramount.
“The key to getting through this: vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” he said. “Get as much vaccine in people as we can. Dampen down as much of this virus as we can right now.”