Daughter still can't hug her mom after COVID-19 vaccine: 'It's heartbreaking'

Posted at 8:32 AM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 00:01:07-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- With the window raised three inches, Valerie Kelley talked to her beloved mother at a long-term care facility in Henrico County.

"It's not the ideal visiting situation, is it? But it's better than nothing," Kelley said.

Shirley Moag moved into a memory care facility in the West End last April, at the start of the pandemic, when her dementia worsened and she stopped eating.

Valerie has never even seen her mother's room.

"It's really hard to have a conversation. The not being able to give her a hug is really hard, not being able to hold her hand," she said.

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Last summer, Valerie said COVID-19 numbers were low enough in the region that she was allowed to visit her mother in the lobby of her Commonwealth Senior Living facility at a safe distance of six feet with masks on.

But that ended in the fall as COVID case numbers started to rise.

"She says let's come out and I'll go for a walk with you, and I have to tell her no," Valerie said. "It's just kind of heartbreaking, I don't know how much longer she has left."

When Shirley received her second shot of the COVID vaccine in early February, Valerie said she felt relief.

She thought she would finally be able to spend time with her mom in person.

"She should be good to go, right? That's the whole point," Valerie said.

But, that has not happened because, according to a spokesperson for the facility, it has not remained COVID-free for 14 days.

So, Valerie has only been allowed to talk to her mom through a window.

"We're almost being forced to take this vaccine, it's your patriotic duty, but I don't understand if it's not going to change anything why?" Valerie asked.

Residents and staff at Virginia's long-term care facilities (LTCFs) started receiving the vaccine in late December.

A total of 3,618 residents in Virginia LTCFs have died from COVID-19.

The state told CBS 6 it is still recommending nursing homes and similar facilities, like assisted living facilities, follow guidelines that were put out in September by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They recommend indoor visits only if there has been no new onset of COVID cases in the past 14 days, and the facility is not currently conducting outbreak testing.

At nursing homes specifically, the feds suggest indoor visits only when the positivity rate of the county where the facility is located is less than 10%.

But, for both nursing homes and assisted living, they recommend routine outdoor visitations, as long as the facility takes into account its outbreak status.

And yet, Valerie and Shirley still cannot do that.

"She would really like to come out and take a walk with me around and get some fresh air," Valerie said.

Valerie is hopeful the federal government and the state will put out new permissive guidance soon, now that so many residents have been vaccinated.

"Hopefully when we get this out there more and more people will put pressure on the government, whoever making these rules for us to live by, will relax them some," Valerie said.

A Commonwealth Senior Living spokesperson said they were working with the CDC to determine ways to safely increase visitation.

They hope to put out new guidance soon.

Also of note, since CBS 6 reached out to Commonwealth Senior Living they told Valerie this week that they would now allow in-person visits in the lobby at six feet of distance with masks on.

We should note that this is not related to the statewide loosening of some COVID restrictions that took effect this week in Virginia.

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