Residents of a rehab facility and nursing home in Colorado protested outside their building Thursday, saying they do not want to be restricted from visiting with or getting a hug from loved ones.
Many of the residents of Fairacres Manor in Greeley, Colorado, stood or sat in wheelchairs outside the facility holding signs that read, "Prisoners in our own home," "Give us freedom," and "Rather die from COVID than loneliness."
An administrator at Fairacres said the people who live there are tired of restrictions that prohibit hugs and other physical contact because of coronavirus.
"They want to be able to hug their grandchildren, they want to be able to hold the hands of their loved ones," Ben Gonzales said in a statement.
Residents echoed Gonzales's statement.
"One thing we have to look forward to is a simple hug," said Sharon Peterson, a 75-year-old resident at Fairacres. "It gives us meaning. Fairacres needs to be commended on how well they have cared for all of us, but it's time for our voices to be heard."
Fairacres Manor had 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus from late March through mid-May, and another 24 cases suspected, according to local newspaper the Greeley Tribune.
After the Fairacres protest, Gov. Jared Polis's office issued a statement on nursing home restrictions.
"We absolutely understand how difficult it has been for residents of residential care facilities and their families," the statement said. "Social interaction is essential to physical and mental health, and so we have provided guidance to residential care facilities that allows for that interaction while also keeping residents safe from COVID-19.
Restrictions have been in place previously, but residents are now able to visit loved ones both indoors and outdoors. In addition, we are doing everything possible to help long-term care facilities mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by working directly with facilities on proper infection control practices that have been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19."
Staff and residents of Fairacres sent letters to the governor's office in August requesting an end to restrictions on physical contact, but Gonzales said Polis's office had not responded.