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Florida families one step closer to seeing loved ones living in long-term care centers

More than 5 months since facilities have been open to visitors
Fulton Suarez
Posted at 5:05 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 18:02:03-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It's been more than five months since nursing homes and long-term care facilities went on lockdown because of the coronavirus.

However, a plan is moving forward to allow loved ones and visitors back in safely.

Sara and Fulton Suarez have been married for 49 years.


The couple's adventures and memories are endless, but Sara said the last five months, entirely apart from her husband, has been one of the hardest challenges in their decades-long love story.

"Just the fact we cannot see each other, and we cannot touch each other. I mean, if you touch your loved one, that fills you up so much, you know," Sara Suarez said.

WPTV first met Sara in March when she visited Fulton through a glass window at a nursing home in West Palm Beach. This was the only way to see him after the state banned visitors from long-term care facilities to protect the most vulnerable people from COVID-19.

Fulton suffered five strokes and has been in a nursing home for two years.

"It's really painful, really painful," Sara said.

A Florida task force met Wednesday again to layout new recommendations to start safely reuniting loved ones at these facilities.

Essential caregivers would be allowed close contact during limited, scheduled visits while wearing personal protective equipment.

However, Florida's surgeon general is hesitant to offer up support.

"You may want to compromise, [but] this virus does not compromise. This virus is spread by the breath and masks do not completely eliminate this virus," said Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees.

Sara agrees safety is a top priority, but after Fulton was sent to the hospital twice in July, she is now renovating a room to bring her husband home.

"I think he deserves to be home with his family," Sara said. "We need each other, and that's why I'm working hard."

Once the governor receives the plan, he will then make his own recommendations to reopen long-term care facilities.