WILLMAR — Richard Halterman was one of 84 residents to receive his second COVID-19 vaccine dose Monday at Vista Prairie at Copperleaf senior living community in Willmar.
Halterman, 90, said he was happy he completed his vaccination cycle and looks forward to when he can see his 16 grandchildren and great-grandchildren again.
His roots in Wilmar run deep, though he spent four years in the Navy, having been a Willmar City Council member from 1978 to 1990.
While Halterman said he’s looking forward to seeing some faces again, he worries about people who won’t take the shot.
“I tell them to beware, because we got the shots but we can still carry the coronavirus,” he said.
Monday marked the completion of all Copperleaf residents being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the first shots given Jan. 18 at no cost to the residents.
Getting the vaccine to Minnesotans 65 or older and those who live and work in long-term care facilities like Copperleaf has been a priority in the state. Since March of 2020, Copperleaf has had 43 residents and 39 staff members test positive.
Copperleaf said it could not answer precisely how many have died from COVID-19 complications because they don’t have access to death certificates or cause of death, but according to the Minnesota Department of Health Situation update page, as of Monday, 4,016 of the 6,378 deaths in the state have been from those in long-term care or assisted living facilities.
Copperleaf also saw a surge in positive COVID-19 tests in November that corresponded with the community surge.
“We’re proud of our success in infection control, given the high positivity in Kandiyohi County during that time,” Jennie Marcus, executive director of Vista Prairie at Copperleaf, wrote via email.
Dawn Bombeck, Halterman’s daughter, and her husband, Jim, are his primary caregivers. They travel 60 miles from Hutchinson to see him.
“At this point, the car knows the way,” Dawn said.
Dawn and Jim received two of the 45 additional vaccine doses given to caregivers and staff members by Thrifty White Pharmacy, whose staff administered the vaccines at Copperleaf.
Halterman, who has been a Copperleaf resident for two years, said he’s been able to see people through the window of his first-floor room and has been watching birds and muskrats, who became fond of his tomato plants.
“That was so funny to watch,” he said. “I let them eat them all and I didn’t even try to scare them.”
It took about two hours to complete the 120 vaccinations, something Marcus was happy about.
“Our residents miss their families,” she said.
While the vaccinations won’t change anything right away as the home is awaiting formal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health, it is one step closer to putting this disease behind them.
“The next step we’re hoping for is that residents can freely leave the premises without needing to quarantine upon their return,” Marcus wrote.
Anitra Loe, 95, a Copperleaf resident for about three and half years, said she was happy she was completing her vaccination cycle.
She also wants to see her three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. They’ve been able to talk on the phone but Loe hopes the vaccine will give her more freedom to move around.
“We’re hoping (family) can come in the summer,” she said.
Both Loe and Halterman praised the vaccine rollout. “I’m hoping it’s a positive thing,” Loe said.
“Copperleaf has been so careful,” Halterman said. “We’ve been really helped a lot. They’ve been delivering meals and we’re all waiting when we can eat in the dining hall again.”
Marcus wrote that they plan to work with their pharmacy partners and physicians to address any new residents who come in after Monday. In the meantime, they will continue to adhere to official safety guidelines.
“Our staff were amazing in their ability to step up during this time, working doubles, splitting shifts and managers coming in and working on the floor to provide care. No staff who tested positive needed to seek medical treatment that we are aware of. Our residents who tested positive have recovered well, although it’s been a challenge because of the isolation precautions,” she wrote. “That’s why this second round vaccine is so important to all of us.”