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Vaccine progress at care facilities renewing family members’ hope

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - COVID-19 vaccination progress at assisted living communities is not only helping staff and residents feel more at ease, but also their loved ones.

As more residents receive their second vaccine dose from in-facility clinics set up by local pharmacists, visiting relatives are moving closer to having "normal" interactions with their high-risk family members once again.

After flying in from her home in Wisconsin last week, Ann Dodge visited her mother--a resident at Santa Barbara's Oak Cottage Memory Care community--for the first time in a year.

Both are now fully vaccinated, but still met with a window between them due to Santa Barbara County Public Health guidelines.

Ann looks forward to being able to hug her mom again.

"I'll just cry, it'll be great," she said with a smile.

That moment is moving closer after a second vaccination clinic at Oak Cottage last week. Executive director Andrea Katz estimates roughly 80 percent of the community's residents and staff have received both vaccines.

Dodge calls her mom's second shot a "huge relief and celebration." She praised the team at Oak Cottage for helping her mom and their family through the wait for a vaccine.

“Knowing that she’s been here for the past year just warmed my heart when I came here,” Dodge said. “We’ve already been doing Zoom calls with her every week and the staff goes out of their way to be with her during the calls, to help her communicate with us… The staff is just exuding love and warmth.”

Oak Cottage's parent company, which manages about 80 facilities across the country, honored the community's performance in 2020 with several awards, including 100 Percent Occupancy and Best Family Satisfaction.

“Being a part of a community, the families feel that we’re an extension of their family,” Katz said. “And not only do we care for our residents every day and their needs, but it’s really important that we care for our families and their needs.”

Alexander Gardens and its sister facility, Villa Alamar Memory Care, finished vaccinating their residents this week.

“The team effort was just remarkable making this happen,” said Mitch Leichter, executive director at both facilities. “It’s like that light at the end of the tunnel has arrived and spring has sprung. And the euphoria of relief was absolutely incredible.”

At Alexander Gardens, a plexiglass barrier still separates residents from visiting family members. Now staff and residents will wait for virus spread to further subside and an easing of local restrictions.

"We're optimistically enthusiastic, but we still want to follow proper protocol," Leichter said. “So you have to fight that impulse… we’re taking the right steps at the right time.”

Community / Health / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Ryan, click here.

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