By Emily Drooby
It’s a long-awaited shot in the arm, and a shot at hope for the first time in months: seniors and staff were given the COVID vaccine inside of Saints Joachim and Anne Nursing and Rehab Center in Coney Island, Brooklyn, bringing a sigh of relief to the Catholic nursing center after days and nights filled with anxiety and grief.
“Whether they’ve contracted the virus or not, everyone has been affected,” explained Barry Breskin, who is with the center.
In the last three weeks of December alone, New York State has seen over 600 nursing home deaths, continuing a tragic legacy that started in the early days of the pandemic. The state is one of the deadliest in the country, with over 8,000 nursing home deaths.
That’s only the deaths that have been counted — it doesn’t include nursing home residents who died in the hospital. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently delayed the release of those numbers until the end of March.
Saints Joachim and Anne wasn’t immune — they did have cases. Still, about two-thirds of the center remains full.
“We’ve persevered, it’s been difficult,” Barry told Currents News. “But we have a wonderful staff who’s done a tremendous job with infection control and maintaining quality health care.”
Now, they think they can almost see the finish line. During this round of vaccinations, they had 200 doses to give out to just over 400 staff and residents.
There were “very few, if any adverse reactions,” he explained. “And as the process goes on more and more people sign up, we give them every opportunity and encourage them and educate them.”
Cell phone footage of the effort was captured for Currents News, as COVID restrictions barred us from going into the facility.
Visitors have also been barred. Families have been unable to see their loved ones. It’s a standard practice as homes around the country tried to keep COVID out. Now the vaccine brings hope that that will change soon.
“We’ve come up with solutions and window visits and everything, but a sense of normalcy to get the comradery back together to get residents in more of a social setting, that only improves rehabilitation and health,” said Barry.
He says that while they don’t know how long things will take to get back to normal, they’re grateful for this first step and first round of protection. More doses should be coming soon.