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Nursing home residents welcoming visitors with safety booths

Residents at St. Mary's Villa who haven't seen family since March are getting their chance for the first time

MOSCOW, Pa. — When some restrictions were lifted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on nursing homes, St. Mary's Villa in Elmhurst began taking the proper steps to allow residents to have visitors.

"They were lonely, and we're staff, and we could only do so much, but we're not family. It meant a lot for us to be able to have them be able to sit and talk to their family," said St. Mary's Villa President Nancy Newcomb.

Universal testing was done on residents at St. Mary's Villa. When all results came back negative, the nursing home had to remain COVID-free for a total of 28 days. If St. Mary's didn't have any new cases, residents were allowed to have visitors make appointments. When they arrive, they are screened before and after the visit.

RELATED: State updates guidance for testing in care facilities

Cheryl and Dennis Meek were visiting their friend Helen Wikoski, a resident at St. Mary's. They haven't been able to see or talk to Helen since March.

"Oh, it was great to see her! She looked wonderful. She's 99 years old, almost 99 years old, so it was so great to see her," said Cheryl.

Newcomb says she saw safety booths on Facebook and a family member of an employee raised money to build safety booths at St. Mary's. The pods and the equipment are sanitized in between each visit to ensure the safety of the residents so more people can have visitors.

"They greet the visitors here, they screen them through all the COVID questions, take their temperature, have them use hand sanitizer, ensure they're wearing their masks and then go over the rules and regulations and staying six feet," said Newcomb.

"It's more important for them. She was teary-eyed when we had to leave. It's so emotional. It means a lot to her," said Dennis Meek.

There are also booths at the Carbondale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Green Ridge Care Center, in Scranton. A fifth booth, which is not yet built, is scheduled to go to the Jewish Home of Eastern Pennsylvania in Scranton.