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Local Senior Living Facility Executive Director Discusses Vaccine Rollout

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Across the country, senior living facilities have begun issuing COVID-19 vaccines to residents. In Winter Park, facilities like The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center have already administered the first vaccine dose of the Pfizer vaccine to most residents. With the nursing center preparing to administer the second round of shots to many residents, new Executive Director Liz Barton sheds light on the experience thus far. 

The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center received the Pfizer vaccine through CVS Pharmacy. Then, in a clinic set up by CVS Pharmacy on January 2, vaccinated 40% of staff, 50% of the executive board, and 85% of residents. The remaining 15% of residents have yet to be vaccinated due to discharges and awaiting permission from family or guardians. Those who didn’t receive the first shot will have the opportunity to receive the initial dose on January 23 during the time when the second round of vaccinations are administered to those already vaccinated.

The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center has exercised extraordinary caution since March 2020 and has avoided having any COVID-19 cases among residents during the pandemic. Barton praised the team for precautions, such as taking the staff’s temperatures three times daily, that were set in place before she arrived. “The quicker you get that symptom caught, the quicker you can get that person out of the building and have them quarantined or cared for or whatever you need,” Barton said. “That’s something I think they did really well.” Barton feels Governor Ron DeSantis has played a part in the facility’s success through COVID-19 as well. “I think in this respect, he’s done a phenomenal job with obtaining and rolling out the vaccine considering we’re the third [most populated] state and we also have one of the highest numbers of elderly,” she said.

With over 30 years of experience, Barton joined The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center in October of last year. Amid the pandemic, she received Nursing Home Administrator of the Year award for 2020-2021 from Florida Health Care Association which has over 3000 administrators. Like The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center, Barton’s last facility received the Governor’s Gold Seal and was rated five stars by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Barton was thrilled to be among the half of board members who received their first shot. In comparison to other vaccines, she “didn’t even feel it” and the only side effect she experienced was arm soreness, which is common in vaccinations. She’s pleased residents and families share her excitement. “They were very positive because they miss them,” Barton said. Since Florida entered phase 2 reopening, the facility has allowed monitored, socially distant visitation. Still, Barton looks forward to a “new normal that isn’t so restricted” for residents and families.

While she believes everyone should have a choice in the matter, Barton is hopeful that “in time, people will see that getting vaccinated is the right thing to do.” And though she’s new to the area, she sees promise in Winter Park and feels that “scientific, evidence-based practice” will help the city beat the pandemic. “I love Winter Park,” Barton said. “I like the culture, I love the restaurants, I love the history and the art. It’s like a little jewel box. I’m so thankful to the board for hiring me so I could move here and experience it. I know this was the right move for me.” As she continues to embrace her new role and team, Barton is grateful to be a key player in striving to keep everyone at DePugh Nursing Center, including some of Winter Park’s most seasoned residents, safe.

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