BUFFALO, N.Y. — With masks still in place for some, families emerged from Erie County Medical Center and some other area hospitals on Friday after a long-awaited and long-delayed visit with patients.
COVID guidance policies now allow that in-person, but still safely distanced, connection once again after three long months of shutdown.
The same situation kept loved ones from visiting family members in group homes for the disabled but they are open again as well.
Restrictions still permit only one visitor at a time for most patients. Face masks are required, along with temperature checks and screening questions.
On Friday night we found Noreen Miranda and Ashley Dirschedl visiting Noreen's sister at ECMC.
They told us: "My sister can't speak but she is able to ... she'll blink her eyes. And she was very happy. She was very wide-eyed and very happy to see us. Her eyes lit up. She was able to see her family. It was amazing to be able to see her. Yes, it was very touching."
And while the virus is still a concern, they said there was a comfort level on the hospital floors and in patients' rooms.
"So to be able to see her today was great. And everybody up on the floor was so nice too. Very comfortable. Very accommodating. Masks. You felt safe, there was sanitizer, it was great."
It was also a wonderful time on Thursday for Vickie Rubin to visit her 38-year-old daughter, Jessica, who has a rare chromosome ailment and lives in a group home in Amherst. They could use FaceTime to keep in touch, but it just wasn't the same.
Of course, there are still some restrictions, as Rubin told 2 on Your Side.
"My big concern because we couldn't really explain this to Jessica ... how was she going to react with me being at a distance," Rubin said. "Was she going to try to move her wheelchair? And that would have been heartbreaking if I wasn't able to go then hug her? Because Jess communicates through hugs. She showed excitement and joy, and we had a really nice time."
And what about the hospital staff? It's a relief for them as well after seeing their patients somewhat secluded.
Dr. Michael Cumming is the Associate Medical Director at ECMC and a practicing psychiatrist on staff.
"I don't think people realize how much our staff, our doctors and nurses rely on families to assist with care, and so opening up now is definitely a move in the right direction," Cumming said.