‘Cheering everywhere’ — Stamford begins vaccinations at senior facilities

STAMFORD — In the next step toward normalcy, senior nursing facilities in the city have begun to approach a future without the coronavirus.
Man receiving Covid vaccine
December '20

Edgehill, a senior community in Stamford, began vaccinating residents in its skilled nursing unit on Monday, just a week after healthcare providers across the state began administering the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Health officials have prioritized older adults in senior living facilities while crafting the state’s Phase 1a distribution plan for the vaccine, a move that underscores the virus’s fatal impact on nursing homes and similar facilities. Phase 1a also includes healthcare personnel and medical first responders.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for forever,” said Chris Cilano, executive director of Edgehill. “It could not have come soon enough.”

Cilano watched this week as pharmacists and nurses start the immunization process for residents in the skilled nursing unit, which provides both short- and long-term care to those with acute medical conditions.

“All of our residents were interested,” said Cilano. “The 21 residents that we have? Everyone was interested.”

Of the 21 residents in the skilled nursing division, staff deemed five ineligible for the vaccine because they had received a tuberculosis skin test in the days prior.

Along with the older adults at Edgehill, associates like Patty Lefort also received the vaccine. Lefort is a nurse in the skilled nursing unit, where she’s worked for almost 17 years.

Getting the vaccine was particularly special for Lefort, who contracted the virus back in April. Lefort’s symptoms were mild, but she has seen what the illness can do during that past several months of caring for patients at Edgehill.

“Especially seeing some residents that you’ve cared for, for years … getting COVID and dying from it,” said Lefort. “It’s terrible. I never want to have to do that again.”

Edgehill reported 35 cases COVID from March until December across 301 residents and 265 staff members. Seven of the the cases were fatal, according to Edgehill Spokeswoman Carol Arnold.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that those who live in long-term-care facilities receive the vaccine during the first available batch. Both long-term-care residents and staff members have fallen victim to the pandemic in large numbers. The two groups account “for 39 percent of deaths nationwide,” according to the CDC.

Now, after months of fighting alongside other nurses, the vaccine is the “little bit of light” she and the rest of the staff needed, Lefort said — the type of hope that felt worlds away back in March, April and May.

“It was a very happy day. I was able also to go with CVS and vaccinate all the residents,” she said.

Joy spread throughout the facility, she said.

“After the first staff member was vaccinated, you could just hear all the cheering everywhere,” said Lefort. “Everyone was just excited that we were choosing to get vaccinated so we can try and end this terrible pandemic.”

Over the course of Monday, 31 staff members were vaccinated — including Lefort and Cilano.

Cilano hopes Edgehill can extend the joy to the rest of the facility in the coming days and weeks.

Edgehill is a continued care residential community and includes independent living, assisted living and memory care facilities in addition to its skilled nursing division. Cilano said he is unsure when all residents will receive the vaccine, but has his eyes set on January.


Originally published in The Stamford Advocate.