MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – COVID-19 vaccinations are nearly finished in Minnesota long-term care facilities. And it’s having an immediate impact, in more ways than one.

The numbers show the devastating toll the pandemic has had on people living in long-term care. Over 63% Minnesota’s deaths happened in those settings.

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There have been good times and really hard times at SummerWood in Plymouth.

“We are like one big family, so when anyone’s life is taken away, we grieve together,” said Pastor Jane Morgan of Presbyterian Homes. They lost two beloved residents to COVID. But that’s not all – they also lost a sense of safety.

“Many people would stay in their apartments, they were afraid to go out. Some staff members were afraid to go to work,” Morgan added.

Like most, the staff at SummerWood made accommodations. Pastor Morgan held chapel in the hallways and holiday parties became mobile.

“I am a social person, I enjoy people. I was a flight attendant all my life 43 years so I am used to talking,” said Kay Larson, a 5 year SummerWood resident. She misses family but she’s made the best of the year. And she and other residents recently got that much awaited shot in the arm.

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“We were elated the day we got our first vaccine, you could see it in their eyes,” Pastor Morgan said.

Kay added that the community is feeling ready for whenever their doors can fully open again. As of now, limited visitors are allowed, and so is eating in the dining room. For those who live together, they can gather again.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel – and we are all working towards it,” said Larson.

The hope is that people will be able to congregate together in late spring or early summer.

Right now, the only people getting vaccine in Minnesota are health care workers, those 65 and above, long-term workers and residents, and some teachers.

Demand still far exceeds supply.

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The state has not yet given us a definitive date for when the general public can start getting the shot.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield