By Marty Lee, Contributor

The morning of December 16, 2020, began what would be an historic day in the months-long COVID-19 pandemic which has gripped the world. On that morning, the first vaccinations for long-term care residents and long-term health care workers began in Florida at John Knox Village, the Life-Plan Continuing Care Retirement Community in Pompano Beach. The first to be vaccinated was John Knox Village Elder Vera Leip.

According to reports by the Associated Press, 90 long-term care residents and 80 long-term health care providers received the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

National and local media descended upon John Knox Village to cover the first long-term care resident vaccinations in Florida. Marty Lee photo.

The highly publicized national roll-out was overseen by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in front of a cadre of reporters and photographers from national and local media including local ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX networks, plus live national coverage by CNN, FOX Business News and FOX News. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and Associated Press were also in attendance.

Gov. DeSantis was joined during the introduction by JKV CEO & President Gerry Stryker, JKV COO Bill Pickhardt, JKV Director of Health Services Mark Rayner, JKV Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer Monica McAfee, Director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz, State Representative Patricia Hawkins-Williams, Broward County Commissioner Lamar Fisher, Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin, and several members of the Florida COVID-19 Strike Force.

According to the news story by The Associated Press, December 16, 2020, Gov. DeSantis presented, “his administration’s effort to get nursing home patients vaccinated as quickly as possible. He said 21,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were split between nursing homes in the Fort Lauderdale and St. Petersburg areas, with emergency medical technicians and Florida National Guard medical personnel visiting the homes to give the shots.

“He said the first nursing home shots had been scheduled by the CVS and Walgreens drugstore chains next week, but he didn’t want to wait. Over the last six weeks, the number of nursing home patients testing positive statewide has risen from 1 in 200 to 1 in 75, he said.

“We were not happy allowing that wait. Time is of the essence,” he said. “We believe the quicker you can get in to vaccinate, the better it is going to be.”

The Miami Herald reported in its December 16, 2020 story, “Vera Leip, 88, was the chosen patient to be vaccinated in front of reporters. The 16-year resident of John Knox Village waved as she was rolled in a wheelchair, wearing a pale pink top.

“How did you get chosen to be the patient of the day?” reporters asked. “I don’t know!” Leip said, laughing.

“Before Leip received the shot, the nurse administering showed the vial to DeSantis and said, “This is the magic.”

“Then, as Leip’s sleeve was rolled up, DeSantis said, “Let her rip!”

john knox village vaccinations

JKV long-term care resident Vera Leip becomes the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Marty Lee photo.

Leip, a retired schoolteacher from Ferguson, Missouri, didn’t wince at the shot.

During the pandemic, JKV has maintained an admirable record in isolating COVID-19 from its population of more than 900 retired adults and 800 employees. JKV Director of Health Services, Mark Rayner said none of the skilled nursing patients in The Woodlands, JKV’s long-term care home, had gotten the disease and one employee who contracted COVID-19 has since recovered.

The residents in The Woodlands have individual bedrooms, with only 12 people per home who come together for meals and socializing. Rayner said that layout, social distancing, protective equipment for staff and daily testing have kept the virus at bay.

The Woodlands, one of JKV’s skilled nursing residences, is the only GREEN HOUSE® model of care in the state of Florida. The GREEN HOUSE® Project is a national care model where elders live in a home that delivers individualized care and fosters empowering relationships between residents and staff. The team is rigorously trained in the GREEN HOUSE® philosophy, giving residents four times more human contact than the traditional institutional model and follows the three key values of Meaningful Life, Real Home and Empowered Staff.

To learn more about John Knox Village and its ongoing efforts to keep its community safe, engaged and active, click here or call 954-783-4040 today.

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