‘We can’t do anything’: Johnston nursing home resident anxious for vaccine, says isolation is very difficult

12 on 12: Vaccine 101

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been more than 6,200 cases among residents in Rhode Island’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

That’s why Joe Bagaglia, a resident of Anchor Bay at Pocasset in Johnston, is anxious to get vaccinated.

“We’re not locked up, but we’re locked down in our rooms,” he said. “We can’t walk around, we can’t talk to anybody, we can’t do anything and it’s just difficult on us all.”

The state remains in Phase 1 of its vaccine distribution plan, and R.I. Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said the state’s elderly population is at the top of their list.

“Seniors are our priority population, and recognizing that population is at highest risk for hospitalization, that’s where we are focusing,” she said.

But Bagaglia, a 73-year-old with underlying health conditions, finds that hard to believe.

“It’s very difficult, thinking ‘Here I am in this room. If I go out of this room, I might get sick and die,” he explained.

In a statement sent to 12 News, Anchor Bay at Pocasset said that since the start of the pandemic, five residents and five staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We have closed down communal dining, because of the of high rates of transmission in the local community,” Anchor Bay wrote. “Activities continue with mask usage by our residents and team members.”

Anchor Bay said the facility has contacted its pharmacy partner to schedule vaccinations, “and will communicate dates with residents and families as soon as this information becomes available.”

During the state’s weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Alexander-Scott said the state is administering the vaccines as fast as they are receiving them.

“We are getting roughly 14,000 doses of vaccine per week,” she said. “If you look at our population, that’s means 1.5% of our population each week is being vaccinated.”

Alexander-Scott said they are closely monitoring the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens, which is providing and administering vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities nationwide.

She said by Friday, all of the state’s long-term care facilities should have been visited by the pharmacy at least once to begin preparations. The state will begin vaccinating residents at assisted-living facilities and nursing homes next week.

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