Amid tears and laughter, visits resume in nursing homes

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Marcie Abramson, left, gestures as she speaks to her mother, Cynthia, outdoors at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, Wednesday June 10, 2020, in Boston, under the state's new nursing home visitation guidelines which requires social distancing. The two haven't been able to visit in person since March. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON – She wore a mask and sat across the nursing home patio from her elderly mother, but Marcie Abramson's emotions were on full display as the two connected in person for the first time in nearly three months.

Like many states, Massachusetts in mid-March limited visits to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to protect those most vulnerable to the coronavirus, which has exacted a heavy toll among older Americans. More than 60% of the state’s nearly 7,500 COVID-19 deaths have involved nursing home residents.

Nationally, over 35,500 people have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, about a third of the national toll, according to a running tally by The Associated Press.

But in Massachusetts, in-person visits resumed Wednesday with masks, social distancing — and plenty of tears and laughter.

“You wanna give me a kiss?" Abramson called out to her 89-year-old mother, Cynthia Abramson, at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston in the pair's first encounter since the pandemic began.

Kisses were strictly off-limits, so the pair exchanged an “air hug.”

“Oh, Ma! I love you so much! I really, really missed you,” the daughter gushed, choking back tears. ”The day finally came. The day is here. I get to visit you."

Under strict Massachusetts guidelines aimed at avoiding a spike in coronavirus cases, visits must be scheduled and take place in designated outdoor areas, with the exception of end-of-life situations.