New CDC guidelines means some vaccinated people can visit loved ones again

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — New CDC guidelines allow people who have had the COVID vaccine to gather inside without masks or distancing and they can visit low-risk people in the same way.

The update is a sign of hope for people who haven’t been able to see their elderly loved ones since the start of the pandemic, but not everyone is opening up the same way.

Some nursing homes are gradually starting to allow visitors inside, but others say visitors have to wait, at least for now.

At Christmastime, Eyewitness News found Edna Maldonado making a window visit to her 97-year-old friend Martha at Riverstreet Manor Nursing Home in Wilkes-Barre. That’s how all of their weekly visits have looked since the start of the pandemic until now.

“They have a glass enclosure. One sits on one side and one sits on the other with the hand sanitizer and she was thrilled. We sat there half an hour and she was thrilled. I have an appointment for next week too,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado says Riverstreet Manor resumed indoor, in-person visitation on Monday. PA’s nursing home residents and staff are now vaccinated.

“It’s a big thing. Because looking through a window is good but it’s not like seeing them face to face. And it’s going to help a lot of these people,” Maldonado said.

But Brenda Banaszek says she still doesn’t know when she’ll be reunited with her father, 89-year-old Hank Banaszek, a resident at the VA Medical Center in Plains Township. It’s been one year since she’s seen him in person. Before the pandemic, she would visit every day.

“It’s so hard because he’s living and breathing, and on this Earth. He’s 89 years old. He’s five minutes away from me. And I can’t, I can’t touch him, I can’t hold his hand and tell him I love him,” Banaszek said.

She says Monday morning, when the CDC cleared vaccinated people to have in-person visits and gatherings, she thought she would finally get to be by his side instead of on the other side of a door.

But she says when she contacted medical center director Russell Lloyd, she was told the VA’s current guidance prevents them from moving forward to the next phase of reopening which would include expanded visitation.

“The staff, the nurses the aids, they’re wonderful people. But he needs his family and I need him,” Banaszek said.

Banaszek says for now she’s still having to talk to her dad through the lobby door even though they’re both vaccinated.

She said she’s reaching out to representatives to find out when that will change.

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