COLUMBIA, S.C. — Residents and staff at long-term care facilities were among the first eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.
Now, state health officials say they could be a model for the effectiveness of vaccinations.
In a Wednesday press briefing, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said roughly 43% of the state has received at least one dose of vaccine; about 35% are considered fully vaccinated.
Despite this, South Carolina has seen a decline in cases and deaths overall. The department says vaccine use is the cause.
“Our state has seen a decline in cases and deaths, and we attribute that to the success of the vaccine,” Dr. Bell said, “and also when we look at highly vaccinated populations. The best example I can think of is in nursing home residents where we have seen the most dramatic decline in cases and deaths because we achieved such high coverage among those vulnerable individuals.”
Evelyn Curry joins most other residents at Carolina Gardens Senior Living at Kathwood, an assisted living facility, to be vaccinated against the virus.
She says it’s created new opportunities for her, as restrictions begin to loosen.
“I wasn’t hesitant. From the beginning, I was for it,” Curry said. “I was able to do more, take part in more.”
When the pandemic first took hold, Curry said she and others spent much of their time in their rooms with visitation restricted and trips brought to a pause.
“I didn’t have much to look forward to like my daughter coming or going here or going there,” Curry said.
While they’re still wearing masks, sanitizing, and limiting the amount of people inside, the hallways are becoming livelier again with indoor visitation allowed and trips outside the facility also taking place.
“We’re kind of slowly getting back to regular,” Lasonia Kenley-Cunningham, the lead medical technician, said. “We try to just make sure that the residents are safe because they are our first priority.”
Curry said she’s hopeful to return to a sense of normalcy soon.
“I just think that we’re all on our way to recovery,” Curry said. “It’s going to be better, much better. Little by little.”