Jacksonville long term care facility one of first in state to receive COVID-19 vaccines

Jacksonville, FLa. — River City Rehab Center in North Jacksonville was the first long term care facility in the state to receive COVID-19 vaccinations Friday through a CVS and Walgreens partnership. Facilities in Broward and Pinellas counties received vaccines starting Wednesday through the Department of Health and National Guard’s strike teams.

Governor Ron DeSantis said in a tweet Thursday night that Walgreens was three days ahead of schedule. Vaccines were supposed to arrive next Monday. River City Rehab got about 20 doses for staff and residents.

Gov. DeSantis said Florida is the first state in the country to vaccinate at long term care facilities.

Angela Smith is a receptionist at River City Rehab, which just opened about a year ago. Her mother, Altamese Springfield, is a resident with Alzheimer’s. The 86-year-old and her daughter were one of the first to get vaccinated Friday together.

“Tomorrow is not promised to nobody regardless of anything,” Smith said. “I love my mom. So basically — I wouldn’t trade the world. They don’t even have to pay me to work here.”

Martha Mears also got vaccinated. She’s only seen her three grandchildren through the window for the past nine months and is looking forward to seeing them for Christmas.

About 80 more doses will be administered at the facility next week. Widespread vaccinations will be available at long-term care facilities starting Monday next week including more than 64,000 through the CVS and Walgreens partnership.

Governor DeSantis also said 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive next week, which will go to 173 hospitals in 43 different counties.

Mary Daniel fought for long term care centers to open up visitation. An emergency order in October allowed for that, but she said many facilities are making their own rules (Some long-term facilities making their own rules ahead of the holidays).

She told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant she hopes the vaccine brings more consistent policies across the state.

“It gives us hope. For a very long time, we didn’t have any hope of anything changing. So we’re very excited about the possibility.”