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Boca Raton couple finally embrace son after 188 days apart

Parents of Daniel Rubenstein had been kept apart from group home resident because of COVID-19 restrictions
Jaclyn Merens, Steven Rubenstein and son Daniel Rubenstein embrace for first time in 188 days
Posted at 3:45 PM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 23:35:11-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Imagine spending six months away from a loved one who lives just a few miles away. It happened to a Boca Raton family because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A March 15 emergency order to protect against the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Jaclyn Merens and her husband, Steven Rubenstein, from visiting their son, Daniel Rubenstein, at his Boca Raton group home.

"It's been a really long time," Merens said. "I just can't wait to get my arms around him."

"It's upsetting both for not seeing him and seeing Jackie go through the loss of being with him," Steven Rubenstein added.

Steven Rubenstein and Jaclyn Merens lament long separation from son, Daniel Rubenstein
"It's been a really long time," Jaclyn Merens says of the time she and her husband, Steven Rubenstein, have spent apart from their son, Daniel Rubenstein, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel has autism and has seen his parents only twice since March at doctor's appointments.

"At first we thought it would only be a couple of weeks," Merens said. "But as time went on, it's literally like someone's cut my heart into a million little pieces."

'It's been a long time:' Mother laments time apart from son

After waiting 188 days, Merens and Rubenstein finally got the opportunity to embrace and spend time with their son.

Safety measures kept Jaclyn and Steven masked and gloved and on the patio for the visit.

A state task force released recommendations Sept. 1 in an effort to safely allow visitation at more than 4,000 long-term care facilities in Florida, including homes like Daniel's.

Daniel Rubenstein hugs mother Jaclyn Merens during group home visit
Daniel Rubenstein shares a hug with his mother, Jaclyn Merens, on the patio of his group home. His parents had only seen him twice at doctor's appointments since March because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The 20-minute visit ended the same way it started, with hugs. Parents and families are forced to embrace this new normal.

"It was wonderful to touch him and to get a hug from him," Merens said. "I'm just happy that we're finally able to see him once a week."

"I'm just glad I got that hug and got a kiss," Steven Rubenstein said. "We're going to be there for him as long as we live. So he's going to be OK."

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