TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Window visits are almost over for nursing homes and long term health care facilities in Florida.
Ready to reunite, families in the Big Bend area are excited after Governor Ron DeSantis signed an order allowing visitation again at long-term health facilities in the state.
Azalea Gardens is putting plans in place to keep their tenants safe once the doors reopen.
Management says they've been waiting for this announcement but it will take a week or two before family members are officially allowed in their facilities.
They are waiting on safety items like outside hand-washing stations that will be installed, as well as hug walls for an extra line of protection.
The facility houses 40 residents and is focused on sticking to the guidelines provided by the state.
Tenants can only have two visitors at a time and minors are not allowed in.
Facilities can only have visitation if there have been no COVID-19 cases between residents or staff for the past 14-days.
Marilyn Kelly has not been able to see her husband of 53 years since May, although she visits every day at Azalea Gardens in Tallahassee.
She says Tuesday's news was overwhelming.
"My daughter showed me the article online and as soon as I saw it I called and I said, 'Put me on the top of the list,'" said Kelly.
Kelly says the news gives her hope that she won't have to kiss her husband through the window much longer.
"It hurts so much not being able to see him because he is helpless," Kelly said.
"We're installing outside handwashing stations, we're installing canopies so that we can make social distancing a little easier outside with these visits," said Stephen Eatman, the vice president of Sales for Sunshine Retirement Living, the parent company of Azalea Gardens. "We're looking into things like hug-walls that you've seen."
The facility will require proper protective equipment and screening before entering the building but they are excited to end the isolation many people are facing during the quarantine.
Theresa Savage says isolation for her mother in law wasn't good and being able to interact with her face to face is a necessity.
"You really cannot get a good grip of their health status physically, mentally, and emotionally," said Savage.
Both families say the facility has done the best they can but tenants need family contact.
"We know they're not here forever but we want these last years to be good ones," Savage said. "So I'm exited to be inside."
Azalea Gardens has no COVID-19 cases in the building now so there will be no 14-day wait time for families to come in once they establish safety protocol.