The Strain of Covid – An Update Inside One Senior Community

As with so many of our elderly, my 90-year-old mother Ginny is entering her 11th month trying to live her life at a senior living facility in Florida while simultaneously facing the confines of a relentless pandemic. It’s been hard. She’s been in full lockdown, experienced some freedoms last fall as restrictions eased, and currently, she has returned to lockdown. Now her residential community is mirroring national COVID-19 trends as the post-holiday surge recently crept into her safe world.

Realizing that no contact with families over an extended time increased a regression in mental health, the management offered the residents the choice to leave to be with family for the holidays as long as they pledged to wear a mask, social distance and self-quarantine upon their return. And as always, staff associates continued to take their own precautions including having their temperature taken before each shift. But this time, all of the safety measures haven’t been enough.

We are now receiving almost daily emails about new cases affecting both residents and staff. (As a contrast, we learned of only one positive test over the first seven months of the crisis.) Here is the recent list:

Jan 4 – 2 staff

Jan. 7 – 1 staff

Jan 11 – 2 staff

Jan 14 – 2 residents

Jan. 15 – 2 staff

Jan 18 – 2 staff

Jan 19 – 7 residents (all in Assisted Living)

Jan. 21 – 2 staff

Jan. 25 -2 staff

Jan. 26 – 6 residents

And strangely, this is all against the backdrop of good news: all residents were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine on January 11th.   How could so many residents test positive so many days after receiving the shot?

“The CDC said it can take weeks for a person’s body to build up immunity after getting vaccinated” according to a USA Today article.

“A person could be infected with the virus just before or just after vaccination and get sick,” the agency said. “This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.”

Nicole Iovine, an infectious disease expert and hospital chief epidemiologist at University of Florida Health, said it takes the average person 10 to 14 days to build up a protective number of antibodies, but each person is different.

“Every day that goes by, the chance you get infected goes down a little bit,” she said. “Any individual person may make an immune response faster or slower than average.”

USA Today Jan. 5th 2021

This is valuable information, but it doesn’t explain how residents could be “newly” infected (right before or right after the shot) since their circumstance has them in lockdown. They have been staying in their apartments since late December with all staff taking heightened protocols. It is well past the 2 to 14-day incubation period if someone was away for Christmas or New Year’s. Where is it coming from? I guess all it takes is one asymptomatic person on Day 5 or 7 or 9 to unknowingly pass it to one other person and so on, thus re-setting the clock and incubation period each time.  Ultimately, the vaccine has got to be the stone wall breaking that progression very soon.

So far, there has been no reporting of any deaths, but I’m not sure that data is required to be shared either. There are further complications with that as deaths occurs somewhat regularly within these communities. Did the person die from COVID or something else?

In terms of the virus, it feels like we are living a real-time version of the adage “a race against the clock.”  How many new cases will there be before the vaccine takes control? My hope is that we have seen the peak, and January 19th is the worst of it. They will receive their second shots at the beginning of February. I simply cannot consider the concept of new variants right now.

I spoke with Ginny the day after her first shot. “They had me going back and forth to my room. They had my birth date wrong; maybe that was why. I finally did get it and it didn’t hurt one iota. I thought I might get a headache, but nothing. I was really tired last night.” I agreed that it sounded like a long day. But a good one.

While she stays in her apartment, she leaves the door open sometimes and sees her 101-year-old neighbor across the hall. They chat at a safe distance. She tries to watch T.V. and read. She is allowed to go downstairs to pick up the groceries my sister drops off every ten days or so. Her independent living apartment is on a higher floor with a picturesque view of a lake and part of a golf course and I encourage her to go out on her screened-in lanai for fresh air and a mental change of pace. On some days, I *think* she ventures out.

And speaking of venturing out, there is talk that those in Independent Living may soon be free to move around inside the facility since the residents who tested positive are all in Assisted Living and since everyone has had their first shot.

Day by day, almost hour by hour, the residents are building up an immune response; getting closer to safety. It won’t be long until we can turn the page on the calendar to February and on this virus too.

Photo credit: Aphiwat chuangchoem on


  1. So sorry to hear about the increase in Covid cases, things were going so well there for all those months. Praying your mom doesn’t get it before she receives her next shot! Glad that she had no reaction to the first one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Scary stuff in a care facility. My wife and I laugh at how we want to be older for once in our lives, but we’re just below the 65-year-old cutoff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I totally get that Pete. But even if you qualify, trying to log in less than a minute after an alert, wait in a “waiting room” only to find appointments are already full can drive you crazy! I don’t qualify, but my husband does. At this point, we’re going to step back and wait awhile. It’s too frustrating. I will say thank goodness we didn’t have to worry about scheduling for mom. That was huge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s an enormous undertaking to vaccinate so many people. It’s why we should have been more diligent about getting the virus under control when we first learned of it. Your approach is wise. Why get stressed about something you have no control over?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope your mom continues to stay healthy. I was excited to take my 90 year old dad for his first shot last week. He lives alone with his “girlfriend” in the apartment building next door.
    My aunt in a Virginia memory care place got Covid along with most of the patients and staff. She returned to her room just last week. Not sure if she’s fully recovered.
    I’m afraid it’s going to be a while before it’s my turn to get a vaccine. Probably not until March/April.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! I’m sorry about your aunt, but it’s good news that she recovered. That’s just scary that “most of the patients and staff” got it. Mom got her second shot yesterday and actually had a small temp, so they were going to give her a Covid test. We pray it’s nothing. I hear you about the wait. It’s going to be at least that long, probably longer, for me. I know they’re doing their best. When they do get to the large “under 65 with an underlying condition”, I do have a doctor’s note ready to go. Anyway, thanks for your comment Janet. At least we’re making progress!


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