Families plead for restrictions to be loosened in NC nursing homes as COVID-19 numbers decrease

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- Phil Wells hasn't hugged his mother in more than a year.

"We never imagined that when the 94th birthday was coming around that we'd still be in this lockdown," Phil said over Zoom Thursday from his Wilmington home. His mother Rosalee lives in a nursing home in Wake Forest.

For 93, they did what they could by peering in through a window with birthday hats on. She also came out onto her balcony of the facility.

"Up until last March, my mother was a very active woman. My siblings and I took her shopping, we took her to dinner, took her to church every Sunday and suddenly she couldn't do any of those things," he said.

Phil praised the work of the facility she's in. He is optimistic with declining numbers in long-term care facilities across the state that he'll get to hug his mother soon.

Rosalee, who has dementia, also has gotten her vaccine.
"It's been amazingly difficult on her mentally and emotionally," Phil said. "The vaccines and declining numbers are fantastic news. It's just fantastic and it really does give us hope."

State health officials said more than 205,000 vaccines have been given to staff and residents. Given the decline in numbers, facilities can resume indoor visitations while following safety protocols. But advocates say Governor Cooper's recent loosening of rules doesn't change much.

"Even at this time as we approach the one-year anniversary, most families are only getting to visit their loved ones outdoors for about 30 minutes," said Lauren Zingraff, executive director of the nonprofit, Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care.

They're grateful numbers have gone down but they want more. Namely, they want restrictions to be dropped even more so more family members can go inside to visit. They also want an essential caregiver to be named for each resident.

Next Wednesday, there will be a virtual and in-person day of advocacy in downtown Raleigh where people will continue to advocate that the continued lockdown is causing another type of pandemic.
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