Residents of long-term care facilities are some of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine here in North Texas. They've been among the most vulnerable populations since the pandemic began and residents and their family members say the vaccine can't get to them soon enough.
“We're just hoping that this is all behind us,” said Angela Biggs, mother of a resident at the Denton State Supported Living Center.
Biggs’ daughter, 30-year-old Amber Reynolds, has lived at the DSSLC since February of 2014. She said news of a COVID-19 vaccine is a relief.
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“The letter that I got the other day from the director said that I would be hearing from them soon to find out if Amber’s a candidate for the vaccine,” she said.
Like many family members of residents of long-term facilities, Biggs has been concerned about the overall impact COVID-19 has had on her daughter.
“If Amber got COVID she would be moved out of her familiar settings and put in a different unit with different staff and those kinds of things,” said Biggs. “For me, not being able to come in there and come alongside the team and care for her. That is a big concern.”
Residents of long-term care facilities will be some of the first in North Texas to receive the vaccine as part of a federal program where facilities are partnering with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies to roll out it out as quickly as possible.
“It really is a game-changer and it comes at a wonderful time as we close out 2020 and we get ready to launch 2021,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads. “The fact that our healthcare workers here in Denton County and across really North Texas are becoming immunized to COVID, I can't think of a better way to start the new year.”
The timing of the rollout could take as long as two to three months to be complete and doctors say this is no time for people to let up their guard.
“We just can't let up. I mean, I think the vaccine gives us a longer-term light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let up at all,” said Dr. Phil Huang, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. “The universal masking, the avoiding crowds, teleworking, staying six feet apart from people washing your hands. We need to do that as vigilantly as ever.”
For families like Amber’s, the day that COVID-19 is a part of the past, can’t come soon enough.
“It’s devastating. People have died alone, people are still living alone and it’s time to move forward,” said Biggs.
County health officials warn that, even with news of the vaccine being administered, residents of long-term facilities cannot let their guard down. In Dallas County alone, there are currently 100 facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks at this time.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.