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'Answer to our prayers': Pawleys Island retirement community gets COVID-19 vaccine

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Lakes at Litchfield

The Lakes at Litchfield was the first retirement community in Georgetown County to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

PAWLEYS ISLAND — Christmas came a bit early for the Lakes at Litchfield retirement community, even if the gift was a bit delayed in delivery.

On Monday morning, workers and residents received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, with nearly 200 doses arriving in Pawleys Island for CVS Health to administer.

The “gift of hope” wasn’t expected to arrive until Jan. 11, but Tim Layton, the facility’s executive director, said that they were notified on Christmas Eve to prepare the facility.

The Lakes at Litchfield is one of the first senior facilities in South Carolina to receive the vaccine.

“This is an answer to our prayers,” Layton said. “There is such a sense of excitement here; a sense of hope amongst the residents and the team members.

“It’s been a long 10 months for them.”

Layton was first in line to get the vaccine on Monday, choosing to be a part of the example he hopes he can set for not only his staff, but also the Lakes at Litchfield community.

While the vaccine isn’t mandatory for anyone at the facility, Layton did indicate that it was “highly encouraged.”

Not everyone in the community has stepped forward to date, something Layton believes will change as this first round of doses is complete.

“I think some people are still fearful of the vaccine, and I think some folks are wanting to see how those of us that have taken it and how we do,” Layton said. “As they see team members getting it, and being OK, it will encourage them to go get it the second time around.”

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Layton indicated that the first priority will be to take care of those that live and work within the community, but then potentially coordinating with loved ones in order to get them vaccinated.

The inability for families to visit the community’s residents has been the toughest part of the pandemic, according to Layton, as the facility has only been open to visitors in short pockets of time.

In order to be open to family, the facility has to have 14 days of no positive cases, something achieved only a handful of times, according to Layton.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the facility itself has had 32 COVID-19 positive cases, 19 with residents and 13 with staff members. There have been five deaths among residents.

There has been one positive case at the facility over the past 30 days, according to DHEC.

Layton pointed to his staff for doing “heroic” work over the past 10 months, especially while juggling their personal lives and potential exposure to the virus.

“Our residents, they couldn’t see their families, so we became that family,” Layton said. “Nothing can replace loved ones, but our staff has done a great job of filling in. Today brings that hope that we can get back to some sense of normalcy in the coming months.”

Across South Carolina there have been 8,610 resident cases in long term care facilities, with 1,614 deaths. In addition, there have been 4,967 staff cases with 28 deaths.

Layton was quick to point out that while there was plenty of hope at the Lakes at Litchfield on Monday, there is a need for due diligence and sticking to health guidelines in order to give the vaccine a chance to work.

“In the more communal-type areas, that’s where you tend to get more of an outbreak,” Layton said. “We have worked tirelessly to protect our residents.

“We’ve done everything known to do, followed every precaution. And we will continue to do so.”

Reach Nick Masuda at 843-607-0912. Follow him on Twitter at @nickmasudaphoto. 

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