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'We should find a way:' First Coast families waiting for eldercare facilities to relax visitation rules

Lisa Nejjar hasn't seen her mother in person in two months.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Many First Coast families continue to wait for local eldercare facilities to relax visitation rules in the midst of this pandemic.

Lisa Nejjar's only view of her mother has been through a window at her rehab facility. She said she hasn't seen her in person in two months. 

"I have empathy for anyone going through this right now," she told First Coast News.

Like so many other families, Nejjar speaks to her over the phone. 

As a nurse, she knows the implications. 

"Loneliness is setting in. Desperation is setting in," Nejjar said. 

A task force created by Gov. Ron DeSantis issued its recommendations this week to ease some restrictions including a facility must have no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days, visitors must wear masks and practice social distancing.

It's now up to the governor to approve it.

"I want the families to realize as much as we want them to come back into the building and see their loved one and be able to get their hands on them, we also want to make sure that we are keeping this virus that is killing people out of our building and keep their loved ones safe," said Nicole Ludwig.

She is an administrator at Family Extended Care in Amelia Island. She has 28 residents at the assisted living facility and tests employees every other week.

Ludwig says she's had no positive COVID-19 cases and when she reopens, she's considering using outside areas for visits.  

"We understand that it's been difficult not seeing their loved ones. But, at the same time, if we were to open up, we need to make sure all of the guidelines are in order," she said.

Nejjar is advocating for rapid testing at all elder care facilities. She says the state has the resources and believes the benefit outweighs the risks.

"They deserve this from us. We should find a way to do this," Nejjar said. 


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