Assisted living facilities and programs in Utah County are taking steps to return back to normal with more Utah residents now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Local assisted living homes made dozens of changes during the past year to fall in line with rules mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Utah’s governor. These changes included mask requirements along with restrictions on visitation and socialization between residents.
The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available in Utah to healthcare workers, residents ages 50 and older, and adults with qualifying medical conditions. It will be available to all Utah adults on March 24. As of March 22, over 419,000 Utahns have been fully vaccinated, many that live in assisted living facilities. This has allowed managers to give residents more freedom.
Tera Babcock, assistant administrator at Canyon Breeze Senior Living in Orem, said the majority of the residents at the facility chose to be vaccinated, with the exception of just three. “They’ve all gotten both their vaccines and most of our employees have too. It’s allowing them to have more freedom.”
At Canyon Breeze and other assisted living facilities, residents are able to see family again and participate in group activities a few times a week.
“We have gone ahead and let more visitors come in and let residents go out a little bit more because we really felt it was best for their mental health to be able to do that,” said Laina Passey, administrator at Country View Assisted Living.
Andrew Braille, owner of 1 Assist Care, said receiving the vaccine is a personal decision that all residents get to make on their own. But at homes where fewer are vaccinated, restrictions have not loosened up.
“Probably about a third of everybody, seniors and employees are not wanting to get the vaccine,” Braille said. “They want to wait and see what the ramifications are long-term because this is a brand-new vaccine. Until we know everybody is vaccinated we’re going to continue to follow the same protocols.”
At Legacy Village of Provo, administrative assistant Graham Ferguson reported the majority of residents have been vaccinated and they have not seen a single positive COVID-19 case since January. He believes that “things will return back to normal.”
It is still largely unknown what the future for assisted living will look like, but the administration of the vaccine offers some hope.
“Our residents definitely are concerned about the future and wondering if the restrictions will change or if this is going to be an ongoing forever thing, so they are frustrated about the unknown,” Passey said.