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On the front lines: Protecting the elderly from Omicron on Christmas

For the second Christmas in a row, Patrick Manor has had the challenge of navigating COVID. But owners are determined to bring holiday cheer.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — Shrimp cocktail was only the beginning of a filling Christmas meal at Patrick Manor, where owner Theresa Putnam has worked hard to keep her facility COVID-free since July 2020. 

"...Today by the grace of God we've been very careful and working hard and we have not had COVID in our buildings,” said Putnam.

For the second Christmas in a row, Putnam has had the challenge of navigating COVID with those who depend on her for care. However, this year, she is determined to make this Christmas better than the last.

Putnam says strict policies on visitation, testing, quarantining, and vaccines have done the job and have allowed residents more freedom within the facility.

"All of our facilities had their booster,” she said.

Only two staff members haven't taken the vaccine.

"I decided not to take the approach of firing people that don't have the vaccine, but they have to wear an N95 all day long,” she said.

It's a tough spot for Putnam, who says she's understaffed and those who are on the clock are overworked.

"We're still probably about three staff short of where we'd like to be and paying about 300 hours of overtime every two weeks,” she said. “But I would rather do that and have staff that I know here, know my residents, will take the best care of them."

Because Putnam says these aren't just people she cares for, they're family.

"They mean everything to me. They're not a statistic. They're not a number. They're not a bottom line for me,” she said. "This is everything."