GARDNER (CBS) – Long-term care facilities are continuing to see positive COVID-19 cases.
The family of one resident living at Gardner Rehabilitation and Nursing Center tells the WBZ I-Team that the start of the year has been tough.READ MORE: 800 Nurses At Saint Vincent Hospital In Worcester Go On Strike
“It was just boom, 58 out of 81 residents by the end of January had COVID, and six had died,” said one woman who didn’t want her identity revealed. “And that’s with the vaccine.”
A majority of residents at the Gardner home got the first Pfizer shot in December, and the second three weeks later. But that didn’t stop a COVID-19 outbreak.
“Just because you got your COVID vaccine is not a guarantee that you are going to be completely protected,” said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
That may be especially true for elderly residents in long-term care facilities, where concerns about loved ones is increasing.
“My parent is 92 years old. We were relieved knowing that she got the first vaccine and relieved still tested negative and got the second vaccine. And then to find out she had COVID, we were petrified. She’s not out of the woods yet. It’s very maddening,” the woman said.
Studies found that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95 percent effective. Doctors say it takes about five-to-six weeks after being fully vaccinated to have maximum protection.
“It’s not terribly surprising that we’ll still see some infections occurring with the vaccination. Ninety five percent is not 100 percent,” said Dr. Kuritzkes, who also noted that researchers are still conducting studies to learn more. “One of the big, unanswered questions on the vaccine so far is do they prevent infection or just prevent symptomatic and serious disease.”READ MORE: Harry And Meghan Detail Royal Struggles, From Discussions Of Baby's Skin Tone To Suicidal Thoughts
The I-Team has learned Gardner is not the only facility with new cases. State data shows despite widespread vaccination, facilities are still reporting new cases every day.
Mr. Carmel Care Center in Lenox says it had no cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic. But just last month, as vaccinations began, two staff members and seven residents tested positive.
Dr. Kuritzkes tells the I-Team, “Vaccines are just one of the tools we have to end the pandemic. We can’t rely only on vaccines.”
He also wants to remind folks that, “People need to continue to remember that these vaccines are highly effective, they are safe and that everybody should get vaccinated when they can. But a vaccine is not an automatic pass to go back to life as we knew it. Wear your mask, and continue to be socially distant and avoid indoor gatherings until numbers go down to almost zero.”
The state notified both homes to stop accepting new residents and in person visits have been suspended. Mt. Carmel said it is taking all necessary steps to support the COVID positive residents and prevent the spread. As for Gardner Rehab it did not respond to our requests for comment.
George Merier, an administrator for Mt. Carmel Care Center, said in a statement:
Mount Carmel Care Center recently notified our community that we have temporarily suspended admissions, consistent with state regulations for facilities with a 10% positivity rate for our COVID-19. We currently have 7 residents who have tested positive; any employees that may have previously tested positive have recovered and meet all requirements for safely returning to work.
Despite taking aggressive precautions, including regular testing – all staff and residents are tested twice a week – quarantining (we have a COVID specific section of the facility), infection control and use of personal protective equipment, our residence has seen an uptick in positive cases among both staff and residents. This is consistent with the higher positivity rate our community is currently experiencing.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Our clinical team is maintaining close contact with the state Department of Public Health and I am confident we are taking all steps necessary to support the health of our COVID-19 positive residents and limit risk of spread to other residents