“We say with caution, the magic has started,” declared Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute in Israel. Segal recently published research that showed high vaccination rates preceded a drop in COVID-19 prevalence, hospitalizations, and death among Israel’s older adult population.
In the US as of February 15, 2021, more than 70 million doses of the two approved COVID vaccines have been delivered, and almost 53 million of those doses have been administered into the arms of Americans. From those 53 million doses, over 14 million individuals have received two shots and are considered fully vaccinated. Even better, a very high percentage of residents and staff of senior living communities are among those who have been fully vaccinated. For that, we are grateful.
While the rollout has not gone as quickly or smoothly as originally hoped, it has picked up steam in the last several weeks and cases in the US are beginning to fall. During the first week vaccines were administered (the week of 12/14) the 7-day moving average number of vaccines was 164,344; exactly two months later (the week ending 2/14) the 7-day moving average was 1,221,848. And on just two days, February 4 and February 5, more than 2 million doses were administered on each day.
With vaccinations increasing nearly 1000-fold in just two months, I think it is safe to say we have started the journey down “Recovery Road”, assuming that the vaccines keep the new strains in check and the public remains vigilant with infection prevention efforts.
At Juniper, I want to declare as Dr. Segal did that, “The magic has started.” And while I am cautious, all of our communities have completed second clinics. And with that, we “join the herd” for herd immunity (#JoinTheHerd). As of last Friday, and including our two newest communities, 97.7% of our residents and 93.5% of our team members have been vaccinated.
Herd immunity was thought to be reached when 60-70% of a community were vaccinated. Erring on the side of caution given the new strains now circulating, the new number is 90%. We are there! Our vaccination rates far exceed most other senior living communities, particularly on the team member side. We are thrilled and believe that this is another example of our proactive strategy working to keep residents and team members healthy and safe.
Now it’s time to reopen and recover!
The fatigue we all feel is real. It has been a year of uncertainty and separation. And while vaccines are not a guarantee of safety, widespread vaccination of a community is our best hope for a speedy reopening according to the scientists in whom we have placed our trust.
I was at a community last week and had the opportunity to meet with a small group of residents. What they crave is what we all crave: the company of family, friends, and neighbors. Especially hugs!
In the next weeks we will pass the magic date—two weeks post second dose of the vaccine. Then we will be able to enhance group activities that encourage active bodies, engaged minds and fulfilled spirits. And while we are always subject to local state and federal guidelines, we also hope to make those long-awaited family visits happen again while continuing to be vigilant with our proactive safety measures.
The ability to visit is critical. We all need that time together, that smile or small movement in our bodies that shows love. We really want that hug. We will settle for the opportunity to share a meal or just watch TV together—in the same room sitting next to each other. It is the ordinary moments we crave!
At Juniper we are moving forward and have begun plans to allow that to happen, to make ordinary moments like these a part of our daily life. We believe we will be among the first to begin the trek down Recovery Road, given our preparation to date and widespread vaccination. And at each stop along the way, we hope to experience another ordinary moment. For me that will mean the ability to give (and get) all the hugs we want, need and deserve!