Last week, long-term care facilities in Atascosa County received their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the State of Texas Phase 1A and 1B. The Heights of Atascosa in Pleasanton had eligible staff and residents receive their first dose on Friday morning administered by the Pleasanton Walgreens Pharmacy staff.
“We had a good turnout of staff and residents who received their vaccine. However, we still have a long way to go with this virus,” said Carl Strange, Administrator of The Heights. He reported that 80% of his staff and residents, who are currently eligible under Phase 1A and 1B, received their vaccine. “While I have not contracted the virus myself, I’ve seen first-hand what it can do to you. It affects everyone differently. Those you think will bounce back from it quickly, take longer to recover and vice versa. It’s not something to mess around with. I encourage everyone to wear a mask and continue to practice all safety precautions, not just for yourself, but for your children 16 and under and your elderly family members.”
Strange received his vaccine for his two children, Sutton and Mazie, and also received it for the protection of The Heights residents. According to Strange, from March-November 2020, the facility went without one single resident contracting the virus.
However, his staff was hit with the virus, including Dietary Manager, Josie Peña, one of the first in line to receive her vaccine.
“It’s very real. Some people think it’s just a joke, but it’s not. It’s a very scary thing,” said Peña, who was out of work for two months due to the virus. Peña’s symptoms included a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. After the first week, things took a turn for the worse. A diabetic, Peña’s sugars were rising, and she was having trouble breathing. She passed out and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance where her oxygen status was at 76%. Five days later, it went down to 50%. She received a lung treatment and various medications including antibiotics and steroids.
“I got the vaccine not only for myself, but for my family and friends,” said Peña, whose husband, Jesus, has cancer and son, Jose, has Down syndrome. “I worry for them. We’ve all had it. My son was in the hospital, too, as well as my daughter [Margaret Castillo]. My husband had no symptoms, so I am going to do everything I can to keep us safe. Knowing that I have already contracted the virus and can possibly contract it again, it’s scary, but I know that getting the vaccine will help.”
Strange commended his staff for getting their vaccine and encourages others to do so as well. “It was a lot like the flu shot. Your arm is sore when you first get it, and you feel sort of sluggish for the rest of the day. So far, there have been no side effects.”
He also commended Pleasanton Emergency Operations Coordinator Philip Glass for his help during the pandemic.
“I think the City of Pleasanton putting him as our EOC was a good thing. He’s been very instrumental with the vaccine process and helping us get the appropriate equipment and staffing needs taken care of through the state. Not only that, but the City of Pleasanton and Atascosa County have been doing a good job on transparency and keeping everyone informed at where we’re at with COVID-19 in the county.”
Currently, Walgreens in Pleasanton is working to vaccinate all long-term care facilities in Atascosa County with limited supplies. If you are a staff member in a long-term care facility or have a family member in one, please contact your director to see eligibility requirements. Or you can visit www.dshs.state. tx.us/coronavirus/immunize/ vaccine.aspx to check eligibility.