What They Are Saying: State Long Term Care Associations Express Optimism As Vaccination Distribution Continues Released:January 04, 2021 AHCAPressOffice@ahca.org Page ContentLong term care residents and staff across the country continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccines, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to give them priority within phase “1a” of distribution.Vaccine distribution is a turning point in what has been a very difficult period for the health care sector, including nursing homes and assisted living communities. Long term care facilities continue to experience a record number of COVID cases due to increasing community spread – the worst outbreak since the spring. Most recent data shows nearly 25,000 cases and 4,000 deaths per week.State long term care associations are hopeful that the vaccines will save lives and allow facilities to resume normal activities in the near future:Brent Willet, president and CEO, Iowa Health Care Association: “This is the most significant development in the last year for nursing facility residents and families, without question ... It’s going to allow us to get back to a level of normality and most importantly a level of contact between families and residents that we’ve been missing for the last 10 months.” Deborah Pacyna, director of public affairs, California Association of Health Facilities: “The vaccination just really represents hope and joy for this particular population that has suffered so much ... We’ve been waiting for this moment for the past nine months.” Scott Fraser, president and CEO, Rhode Island Health Care Association: “The people who have been most affected by the illness are getting the vaccinations, and that’s very important ... We are finally getting the program underway, and it’s going to go a long way to help save people’s lives.” Patti Cullen, president and CEO, Care Providers of Minnesota: “This is a really big deal. It gives us hope and literally will save lives.” Emmett Reed, executive director, Florida Health Care Association: “Florida’s long term care facilities are working diligently to get the vaccine distributed quickly and safely to their residents and staff … This has been a complex and long process, but our members are making it happen and literally saving lives every single day.” Zach Shamberg, CEO, Pennsylvania Health Care Association: “We’re hopeful that after the second dose of the vaccine is administered, probably in February, March and April, we can return to some sense of normalcy. That means reopening visitation and allowing residents and their loved ones to reconnect again.”Vaccine distribution brings long term care providers one step closer to defeating the virus. Although the vaccines are a reason for optimism, we must remain vigilant. Long term care providers must be made a priority for the vaccines, as well as critical resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and staff support.AHCA/NCAL is leading an effort to educate long term care residents, families and staff about the vaccines. Last month, AHCA/NCAL launched a nationwide campaign with branded collateral and informational materials for its members, as well as the hashtag #GetVaccinated to raise awareness online. AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said, “Vaccination is the best tool we have had in the ongoing fight against this historic threat … The faster we get people vaccinated, the more lives we can save."ABOUT AHCA/NCALThe American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org.