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COVID-19 Cases, Deaths Drop Significantly In Long-Term Care Facilities

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A national study offered a ray of sunshine for many long-term care facilities as it revealed COVID-19 cases have dropped by 82% and deaths have dropped by 63% since December. 

“What a tragic year it has been, by far the most difficult year in the history of the long-term care sector,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center of Assisted Living during a national press conference on Monday. “The rate of decline (in long-term care facilities) is actually more significant than the rate of decline in the general population. The fact that the number of cases has been declining more dramatically among residents and staff is a really good indication that the vaccine program is working.” 

Evidence of that is being felt at The Ridge Foothill Senior Living center in Salt Lake City. Social activities have resumed with residents gathering together. They are also able to eat together, and new guidelines allowed some family members to go inside rooms to visit loved ones. 

These activities were not possible a few months ago because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

“It’s so wonderful to be able to just sit near each other. We’ve all had the vaccines, it’s just a whole new world for us,” said Mary Heideman, one of the activity coordinators.  

It was the end of December when the very first vaccine shots were given to the more than 250 residents and staff members at the center. Resident Wendy Moench was the second one to get it. A few weeks later she got her second dose.

“I feel like a free woman. It’s like a spring door opened up.” Moench told KSL with a big smile on her face.

Masks must still be worn inside the facility, at all social gatherings, and when around others.

“We have to be cautious and we have to be safe for other people who are coming into the building,” Moench said.

Rick Paul just moved his mother into The Ridge two days ago from a senior living center in Wilmington, Delaware. He said being able to actually go into his mother’s room and sit with her is a huge deal. 

“This is absolutely wonderful. Her family and her church are everything and without those two things in her life she basically sat in her room and waited for the clock to tick through the days,” Paul said. 

“I think it’s beyond hope,” said Cindy Fey, director of marketing at The Ridge. “It’s been a huge game-changer all being vaccinated. It feels like we are back to normal it really does. We’ve loved it.”


Coronavirus Resources

Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing social@ksl.com.

Click here to sign up for a vaccine and here to see how Utah’s vaccine rollout is progressing.

The latest COVID-19 stories from KSL can be found here.

How do I prevent it?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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