Brianne Brice

Brianne Brice, a nurse at Mala Strana Rehabilitation Center and Assisted Living in New Prague, received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28. Brice survived the virus this summer after an outbreak at the facility sickened dozens.

Residents and staff at local congregate care facilities welcomed the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines this week.

"I look so forward to having a meal in the cafeteria with my wife," said Arthur Jindra, 83, who received his first dose of the vaccine Monday. "That's my dream." 

Jindra, a resident at Mala Strana Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Center in New Prague, said the vaccine brings a hopeful atmosphere, and even talks of re-opening the cafeteria and game tables. 

On Monday, Mala Strana became one of the first congregate care facilities in Minnesota to be offered the vaccine, which was delivered to the facility by Polaris Pharmacy Services. 

"I just think it's one of the most wonderful things that I have experienced," Jindra said Wednesday. "I don't exactly know how to put it — in my mind, it gives me a sense of relaxation, a sense of being safe." 

The light comes at the end of a long, dark tunnel for residents and staff at Mala Strana, who were struck with a deadly outbreak in July. 

In less than a month, infections were confirmed in 35 residents and more than 20 staff members, according to data provided by Monarch Health Management in August. 

To date, 15 residents at Mala Strana who've tested positive for COVID-19 have died, but individual determinations are made about their cause of death. 

Brianne Brice, a nurse at Mala Strana, was among those sickened when the virus swept through the facility this summer. 

She said the vaccine's arrival this week brought relief. 

Over 50 employees and most residents were vaccinated, and they've been doing well since, Brice said Wednesday. 

Jindra said he's extremely thankful to have recovered from COVID-19 last month, and he's grateful for the work being done to make vaccines available to long-term care residents.  

"I'm looking forward to the next 30 days when I'll get my final shot," he said. 

The local roll-out continued Tuesday, with first doses also being administered to at Shakopee Friendship Manor. 

Administrators with St. Gertrude's Health and Rehabilitation Center, also in Shakopee, said Tuesday they are still waiting to hear from CVS regarding the specific day and time vaccines will become available to staff and residents. 

Since March, the facility reports a total of 23 patients, 22 long-term care residents and 62 staff members have become infected. 

Scott County Public Health Director Lisa Brodsky said Monday the county's health department is working on taking a headcount of those eligible to be vaccinated based-on the state's vaccination plan. 

The county health department will administer the vaccine to local police and fire personnel. 

"As per the guidance, we are starting with emergency medical responders and community vaccinators very soon," Brodsky wrote in an email Dec. 28. "We received a very limited supply of vaccine right now, but are working on assuring that we meet the needs of our priority populations." 

The next phase of the vaccinate rollout will make vaccines available to adults ages 75 and older, and some groups of essential workers. 

The Minnesota Department of Health plans to release additional details in mid-January.