(NewsNation Now) — Grandchildren will be reunited with grandparents for the first time in 7 months this weekend throughout Florida.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis relaxed COVID guidelines for assisted living facilities to allow children to visit. All visitors will also be allowed to meet with loved ones outside facilities, even if there is a COVID case in a facility.
“Health is about people’s physical, mental, and emotional social well-being and so mitigating one virus needs to be done, but it shouldn’t be done to the exclusion of anything else involving people’s wellbeing,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.
That is good news for the Ruth family. Lorraine Ruth’s 86-year-old mother Josephine lives just a few miles from her South Florida home.
But the only way Josephine has been able to see her daughter, and grandson since March has been through a glass window at an assisted living facility.
“She said at one point when we visited through the glass…she said I know I’m going to die in here. And the last thing we want is for that to happen. For her to die alone without us,” Lorraine Ruth said.
Governor DeSantis says since September 1st COVID cases in long-term care facilities have declined by 70 percent.
Other states, like New York, are also considering loosening up on nursing home visitation restrictions.
A new bill introduced in the New York State Assembly would allow family members designated as primary and secondary caregivers access to their loved one.
“A parent or a child or someone else that can go into a nursing home that can be cleared wearing a mask, or whatever protocols that need to take place, and visit that individual, we’re not saying we want people to just go in — we want it to be done safely,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said.
But there is concern about opening the doors to facilities with the most vulnerable inside.
“This virus is very uncertain how it is going to interact with this population within nursing homes and assisted living. And we cannot rest on our laurels,” Brian Lee with non-profit Families for Better Care said.
Experts say a big component to keeping COVID out of nursing homes is frequent testing of residents and staff. Governor DeSantis says the state ordered millions of rapid tests that will be sent to facilities throughout the state.