SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When COVID-19 first appeared in KELOLAND, there were many uncertainties as well as fear.
Linda Studer works in administration at Good Sam Luther Manor. Her position includes daily interaction with residents, meaning she saw firsthand just how devastating it was when COVID hit.
“When the pandemic started, we believed that, you know, this was going to be three months and then we thought it was going to be four months and then it was six months and then it was nine months,” Studer said.
And now, it’s been a year. A year full of challenges, loss, and perseverance.
“We talked about kind of early on shutting down was kind of the easy part. But it was the hardest part,” Nathan Schema said.
Virtual and window visits became the norm for residents everywhere. Nathan Schema says GSS staff began working around the clock to protect each other, and residents.
“Every resident death has been an absolute tragedy and we mourn every single one of them. So, you know, our focus right now continues to be, how do we open back up? How do we open back up safely?” Schema said.
He says visitations rely on county positivity rates, which climbed in parts of the state last fall.
As we mark a year, Rochelle Rindels says vaccine distribution and COVID therapies are saving lives, and bringing hope for the future.
“Since December, when we really gave our first BAM or antibody infusion, we’ve given over 300 doses to our residents in our locations. And that would estimate out to preventing around 17 hospitalizations and two deaths among that population,” Rochelle Rindels said.
On the day of our interview, Schema says GSS was reporting a zero percent positivity rate among staff and residents throughout South Dakota, with over 80 percent of residents vaccinated.
“It’s just a huge. It’s almost hard to describe because we’ve seen some, we’ve seen some really tough times. And, you know,
I think the hope that it gives me is that, you know, there is, there is that normalcy that looms out there,” Schema said.
“Our nurses are so proud to be able to offer the infusion and now the vaccines for the residents, because they have seen the deaths and the loss in the facilities and this is really the way out. This is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Rindels said.
“I’m just really proud of our Good Samaritan staff and all that they have done over the course of these last months,” Studer said.
Schema says in order for indoor visitations to take place, the county positivity rate must be under 10 percent.
He recommends people who would like to visit a loved one in a GSS community to call their local facility ahead of time.