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Good news stories from long-term care facilities show vaccines work.

Look no further than some of Pierce County’s most vulnerable residents to see how well COVID-19 vaccines work.

Protecting those who live and work in long-term care facilities quickly became a high priority in the pandemic. Many are at high risk for severe illness because of their age and health conditions. Care facilities followed some of the state’s most restrictive COVID-19 guidelines.

Pierce County connected its first death of a care facility resident to COVID-19 in April 2020. By September of last year, 60% of everyone who died from COVID-19 in Pierce County lived or worked in a long-term care facility.

Good news on a large scale.

Deaths were only part of the tragedy. During much of the pandemic, families and friends couldn’t visit their loved ones. Care facility residents were lonely and isolated for months. Everyone suffered.

COVID-19 vaccines brought hope. Care facility residents and workers were among the first to receive the shots. Within months, outbreaks in care facilities fell dramatically. By mid-June 2021, we had no reportable outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Visits with family and friends resumed. Grandparents hugged their grandkids again.

And while COVID-19 still poses a severe threat to older people with health issues, the vaccine has reduced the percentage of deaths. As of October 12, people who lived or worked in Pierce County long-term care facilities make up less than 25% of those who died from COVID-19.

Good news on a small scale.

The big numbers tell a great story of the vaccine’s effectiveness. But a smaller story at 1 Pierce County care facility is just as powerful.

The arrival and spread of the Delta variant over the summer brought a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Where outbreaks had fallen to zero at care facilities and businesses, they started to rise again.

At the same time, breakthrough cases increased. These occur when fully vaccinated people become infected with COVID-19.  

On August 12, our investigators became aware of an outbreak involving 2 people at Cottages at University Place. In the coming weeks, cases grew to 21–18 residents and 3 staff. All residents and 2 of the staff got COVID-19 vaccine in January.

Of the 21 cases, most people experienced no symptoms. Those that did had very minor symptoms. No deaths. No hospitalizations. By mid-September, we removed the facility from our list of outbreaks.

Vaccines work.

Not every story ends this well. But we know COVID-19 vaccines mean more stories end this well. People who are vaccinated face better COVID-19 outcomes. They are:

  • 5 times less likely to be infected.
  • 10 times less likely to be hospitalized.
  • 10 times less likely to die.

While case rates are declining, they’re still much too high. And COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths remain high.

Vaccines help protect you, your family and those that are most vulnerable in our community. You can find your dose of COVID-19 vaccine today at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture. If you need a ride to an appointment or can’t easily leave your home, we can help with that, too. Call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week.

And you can do even more to help stop the spread.