About 99% of residents at a local senior living center have received their second COVID-19 vaccine doses, the center’s CEO said, while at least 90% of the center’s employees have also received the vaccine.
The Burbank branch of Belmont Village Senior Living, which has more than 100 residents, also recently faced an outbreak of the coronavirus, according to an entry on the Los Angeles County’s public health department dashboard. The county reported 30 staff cases, 38 resident cases and nine deaths as of Tuesday.
Patricia Will, founder and CEO of Belmont Village, said the county confirmed that the outbreak ended last week, though she was not sure when it began. But the number of staff and residents who had tested positive continued to increase this week on the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. When asked about this, a spokeswoman for Belmont Village reiterated that there are currently no cases of COVID-19 at the Burbank facility.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health did not respond to questions asking when the outbreak began and whether it had been declared over by the Leader’s press deadline. Belmont Village Burbank remains on the county’s list of active outbreaks.
“No public health department was ever prepared to have the data infrastructure to deal with all of this,” Will pointed out. “They have been really, really wonderful on the ground with working with us, actually, since the beginning of the pandemic. … It’s just that the paperwork doesn’t catch up.”
There is hope that a similar deadly outbreak won’t occur again, however, considering the high vaccination rates at the local senior living center. While many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have reported difficulties getting their workers and residents vaccinated, Will said the process at Belmont Village locations has been very smooth.
She explained that Belmont Village representatives have worked closely with Walgreens, one of the pharmacies the federal government has partnered with to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines. Facilities have gained the written consent of residents and workers in advance, she added, allowing vaccinations to be distributed efficiently.
The first doses were distributed to Belmont Village Burbank in mid-January, and the second were given on Feb. 9. Will pointed out that a higher percentage of facility workers in Burbank have received the vaccine than at other Belmont locations, which usually report about an 80% vaccination rate for employees.
“We’re very celebratory at this point, and all of our team members are, too,” Will said. “This a yearlong thing, obviously — we’re not naive, it’s not [that the pandemic] is over. But we sort of have a spring in our step.”
Will said she hopes that restrictions will eventually be lifted for facilities like Belmont that have a high vaccination rate, but she stressed that safety precautions remain in place. Social distancing and masks are still required, and the Belmont Village locations in California are testing workers and employees for COVID-19 once or twice a week.
“We’re not going to throw caution to the wind,” she said. “We’re going to take small steps, and I think a lot of our family members are very excited.”
Will noted that testing is critical to guarding against the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus, which has sometimes devastated nursing homes and similar facilities. She declined to say how the outbreak at Belmont Village Burbank began.
Visits to Belmont Village Burbank were halted during the outbreak, Will said, though she expects that to now resume. Visitations are held outdoors or with restrictions.
Will praised the workers and residents at Belmont Village locations, pointing out that some seniors living at the facilities had experienced the 1918 flu pandemic, while others had fought in World War II.
“I think the one thing that struck me about this whole year is the resilience of our seniors,” Will said. “They’ve really been a beacon.
“[And] we have unsung heroes in our team members. I’m excited for them about [the] 90% vaccination rate as anyone because they’ve borne a terrible burden,” Will added. “They have family, they have to circulate on the outside being worried about contagion — and all of a sudden, they have the gift of the vaccine so that they know they’re safe.”