Branches of North Attleborough provides COVID vaccine to staff and residents

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Branches resident Mary Moreau gets her first dose of the vaccine for COVID-19 from Ryan Merrill of CVS Health on Friday, Jan. 15. The second dose will be administered on Feb. 5. Staff Photo/Max Bowen
Joe Touchette, a cook at Branches of North Attleborough, gives a thumbs-up while receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

At Branches of North Attleborough, things took a step back to normal as associates and residents received their first COVID-19 vaccine doses.

In partnership with CVS Health, the first dose of the vaccine from Pfizer was given on Friday, Jan. 15, with the second round to be administered on Feb. 5. This was done on a strictly volunteer basis, with two residents and some of the associates declining. Executive Director Kelly Arnao said that informational meetings were held prior to this to address any questions or concerns.

One resident declined due to having a bad reaction to a flu vaccine, according to Arnao. The family of another declined because they had already had COVID-19 and is now in Memory Care.

A lot of people went to their doctors and were told they should get it,” said Arnao. “Better to get the vaccine than the virus.”

The roll-out of the vaccine will be done in three phases. The first, which runs from December through February, is for first responders, clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-facing care, long-term care facilities, congregate care settings, home-based healthcare workers, and healthcare workers doing non-direct COVID-facing care.

The second phase is set to begin in February and run through April. During this phase, those 65 and older or having one comorbidity will be able to receive the vaccine. In addition, those who works in schools, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers will be eligible. The vaccine is expected to be available to the public by April.

The administration of the vaccine at Branches was done in a festive atmosphere with the theme of “getting to the finish line.” Checkered flags were posted and medals were given to everyone who got the vaccine. Arnao said that associates and residents are tired in living in PPE and not being able to see their families.

So most people are raring to go,” she said.

Jeannette Ciullo, a resident at Branches, said she wasn’t worried about the vaccine, joking that she’s gotten a lot of shots over the years. She misses her family, with whom she communicates over the phone as opposed to seeing in person.

I miss my grandkids,” she said after getting her shot.

Senior citizens age 85 and older are identified as among those most at risk from COVID-19. In the early days of the pandemic, many fatalities occurred at assisted living facilities and among elderly residents. Branches saw some cases, said Arnao, but a full outbreak was avoided.

At Branches, staff and residents are in face masks, and testing is done for the employees each week. Residents are tested for every positive COVID case, and additional testing was done around the holidays. Activities such as live music haven’t happened, with the exception of piano performances, and the 40 or so volunteers have not been around due to risk of infection. Branches closed to all visitors on March 15 and re-opened after July 4.

It definitely changed what our business was about,” said Arnao. “They (residents and associates) just want things to go back to normal like the rest of us.”