The world, including the U.S., Pennsylvania, and Lycoming County, is still in a pandemic. COVID-19 is not endemic yet. Pandemics are known to cause widespread disruption, illness, and hardship, as we have experienced since 2020. Endemic means a disease is spreading in a community at the normal or expected level. A pandemic begins to shift to an endemic once the disease becomes more stable and manageable.

Have you ever visited a long-term care facility? If so, you most likely understand the environment and the enormity of what staff do every day, every hour, and every minute to keep our vulnerable residents protected and safe from viruses. Our residents want to be protected too! The following information is from several residents at Valley View Rehab & Nursing Center (Valley View) who gave their input as to why “it matters.” Please see their side of why “it matters” to wear masks if you visit or work in a nursing home and be vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza!

Nancy Koppel, PEER (PA Empowered Expert Resident) and Resident Council President, is a retired registered nurse (RN.) Her motto is, “Prevention is key to staying healthy.” The focus was always on prevention when she was a practicing RN. She always stressed this to the families of her patients when she worked in the home health arena. The entire family needed to focus on prevention. She stressed doing everything possible to prevent her patients from getting sick. Nancy also emphasized that strains of viruses mutate, and that everyone’s immune system is different. There is no guarantee who will or who won’t contract COVID for a second or third time, or what immunity has truly built up in each person’s body. Nancy also noted that when she meets new residents who are admitted to the facility she discusses the importance of vaccines.

Juanita Mulberger, another resident at Valley View, noted some people may not have enough information or background about COVID to make an informed decision. As she thought it through, her question is, “What is the right thing to do for everyone?” She also noted that “Prayer is important.”

Ruth Weeks, resident, reflected that she had been several places, including the hospital, through COVID. She noted that it was one full year before she was able to see her one and only son. She stated, “Some people do not do anything to avoid getting or spreading COVID, and this is sad.”

Karl Henthorn, (PEER) resident, said “Immunizations are for everyone, not just those at risk for contracting COVID.” He stated that “People are selfish thinking it does not pertain to them” and that “All people should be part of this and be involved.”

Jackie Poplaski, (PEER) resident, stated, “If people do not get vaccinated, they could be around those in the public who have COVID or maybe they have the virus themselves without knowing it, and pass it on unknowingly. Some of the people who are exposed may be compromised and get very sick. Too few people are wearing masks in public places like grocery stores to protect others.”

The reality is some people will get very sick with COVID and some people will die. Please consider if this will be you or someone in your family. Then ask yourself, “Does it matter to me?”

Currently, Valley View is hosting Let’s end COVID!’s “Be COVID Safe” display for several weeks in their lobby. This display has attracted a lot of attention, and many people recognize some of those featured in the display who have received their vaccines and now promote being fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Valley View recently created a fact sheet on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and key facts about influenza vaccines. This was distributed to further educate staff, residents, and resident families on why “it matters” to receive and to stay up to date on these very important vaccines. Valley View holds monthly COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. The next one is February 21st, and is open to the public. Contact Valley View at 570-433-3161 for more information and to register.

Michele Brague is the administrator of Valley View Rehab & Nursing Center. Residents Nancy Koppel, Juanita Mulberger, Ruth Weeks, Karl Henthorn, Jackie Poplaski, and Infection Preventionist Tammy Miller-Welty, LPN, contributed to this article. The current Lycoming County Community Transmission Level that defines our interaction in health care facilities such as nursing homes continues to be high. At this level the CDC and DOH requires everyone to mask when coming into a healthcare facility to work or visit. Currently the Lycoming County COVID-19 Community Level used to define interaction in general public spaces is low. At this level the CDC recommends optional masking any time for extra protection.

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