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.
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."
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.
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."