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'It's been a long time coming': Veterans inside Thomson-Hood get vaccinated

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Posted at 6:33 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 18:40:51-05

WILMORE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Long-term care facilities have been ground zero for many community outbreaks of COVID-19.

Residents have spent the past nine months isolated from loved ones while staff members made their own sacrifices to protect them.

But Tuesday was finally a good day as COVID-19 vaccines arrived at some facilities.

The first residents received the vaccine at Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in the morning.

With one quick injection of a long-awaited vaccine, the mood changed.

"We are so excited. It's been a long time coming," said Caity Grose, the center's director of nursing.

"It's not the magic bullet so to speak, but it's a celebration for us and I'm so excited. I can't underscore that enough," said Mark Bowman, the executive director of the Office of Kentucky Veterans Centers.

The pandemic did not breach the center until September. But when the virus spread, in all, 87 residents and 78 employees were infected over the following weeks."It's a horrible virus, and we kept it at bay for a very long time, but once it became rampant in our community, and it got into our facility, it was very hard to stop," said Grose. "And we lost 34 men that we weren't ready to lose."

"And I want everyone to know that this has been a trying time for all of us," said Army Private First Class Norris Hardison, who received the vaccine this morning.

That outbreak did come to an end. As the anticipated vaccines arrived, no veteran is COVID-positive.

The loss of so much in 2020 will never be forgotten. But Hardison, other veterans, and staff members are looking forward to a new day with the arrival of the vaccine.

"This is light at the end of the tunnel, but there's a whole lot of journey left for us," said Bowman.

The next step in that journey is safely allowing family members to visit residents once again.

While officials report that no residents at the center are COVID-positive, there is one staff member currently in quarantine. But Bowman says they should be released in the next couple of days.

Bowman says that if no staff member or resident tests positive in the next two days, there may be controlled visits allowed in time for Christmas.