Silver Spring retirement community with 2,300 residents completes COVID-19 vaccinations

A senior living community in Silver Spring, Maryland, is one step closer to what it calls “healthy freedom,” after it completed vaccinating its 2,300 residents last week.

“It has been a long haul,” said Gary Hibbs, executive director of Riderwood Senior Living. “And we’re very conscious that we’re not out of it yet, but with the vaccinations, it was really the first offensive step we could take.”

Each person at Riderwood who wanted and was able to get vaccinated, totaling 96% of its residents, has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The senior living community partnered with its on-site CVS Pharmacy and Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center to secure vaccine doses.

“Wearing masks correctly, which we still do, staying distant, washing our hands, those were all kind of defensive pieces and when the vaccine came in, we jumped on it right away and our first vaccines were administered Dec. 23,” Hibbs said.

The retirement community is now inching closer to normalcy. Hibbs said Riderwood opened its dining venues for dinner at 25% capacity at the start of the month, and it will open its cafes for lunch at limited capacity March 15.

“The residents could not be more excited,” Hibbs said. “The heartbeat of the community is to connect with people — coming down and sharing a meal with friends is a big deal, so we’re feeling a good vibe here at Riderwood.”

During the worst stretches of the pandemic, the facility had to deliver essential items to each apartment unit in the community. Temperature checks were frequent.

“We called it a concierge service,” Hibbs said. “We wanted to make it, as much as possible, a situation where residents didn’t feel the need to venture out — and the staff responded well to that.”

The community has nearly 1,400 staff members, and the majority are vaccinated, according to Hibbs. While Riderwood is now fully vaccinated, he said the term “vaxed and relaxed,” doesn’t entirely apply.

“I wouldn’t say that we’re completely relaxed,” Hibbs said. “But we certainly have great reason for cautious optimism as we get to healthy freedom.”

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

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Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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