Barb Klick woke up happy on Jan. 3, for the first time in a while – and all because she was getting poked by a needle.
Klick, the CEO of Sholom, was vaccinated along with 400 others on Sunday morning – the first opportunity for residents and staff of the senior living facility to have the first of two doses.
“This pandemic has tested everyone and there is the first light at the end of the tunnel,” said Klick. “Getting a vaccine in everyone’s arms is the first step to bringing our community back together and ensuring everyone can be safe. It is one of the best ways to protect yourself and those around you.”
Some of the residents and staff at the Sholom East facility and St. Paul were the first to get vaccinated; Sholom West is scheduled for the first dose on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Ann Thole, Sholom’s COO, was measuring and taping six-foot areas on the floors for people to stand, and arrows to direct traffic.
“It’s a lot of work,” Thole said. “Between getting the lists and all the information that CVS is asking us to provide; there’s a two-page document (that everyone getting a vaccination) has to fill out. We have to make copies of insurance cards, and driver’s licenses and social security numbers in case there are insurance issues. It’s a lot to manage. It’s well worth it but there are a lot of steps.”
Despite all the steps, Thole said that the first clinic went off without a hitch.
“Between the pharmacists and staff it was impressive,” she said. “We had a smooth process in place. I couldn’t have asked for it to have gone better. We were very well prepared.”
The Moderna vaccine is being administered by CVS Health in conjunction with Sholom’s nursing staff. Most residents and front-line staff are eligible for vaccinations according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines.
“While we will still be masking, distancing and washing our hands regularly for the foreseeable future, receiving these doses over the next few days and the follow-up injections in about three weeks, is a big step in the right direction,” Klick said. “I am so grateful for the dedicated work of our entire Sholom team for the exceptional care they have provided throughout the pandemic. They have all lived the idea that everyone deserves Sholom.”
Klick also thanked the Twin Cities Jewish community for their help throughout the pandemic.
“No one was helping us at the beginning, but the Jewish community stepped up and helped us: Facemasks, iPads for the residents, both [Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish] Federations, [Sholom] Foundation,” she said. “Those entities saved us. Without the community we’d be sunk: Bringing treats for our employees, donating money for testing and masks, Hanukkah activity kits. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
Last week, Thole and Shelley Arumba, Sholom’s corporate clinical director, held two Zoom Webinars for family members to ask questions. Many things aren’t totally in Sholom’s hands, including which residents at Sholom’s facilities were going to be able to be vaccinated.
Originally, Thole said, the Knollwood Place Apartments and independent-living residents were not going to be included with the group that receives their first vaccinations on Jan. 6. However, Sholom successfully lobbied, arguing that Knollwood Place has assisted-living licensure from the state.
“I would say that I don’t have a problem with that, but then if we’re going to be considered assisted living with everything else, they should consider us assisted living for the vaccine,” Thole said. “We don’t decide who goes when for the most part.”
Thole said that in St. Louis Park, Menorah West residents will be vaccinated with Roitenberg residents, while in St. Paul, Bentson Family Assisted Living residents will be vaccinated with residents of the Weinberg apartments. A date for those clinics hasn’t been assigned.
“It’s complicated. I wish it were easier,” Thole said. “People are worried. It’s been a year. There’s a new strain and it brings a whole new set of fears. We just want to be responsive.”