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Nursing home residents stage heartbreaking protest outside facility: 'Rather die from COVID than loneliness'

A moving sight

Image source: KCNC-TV video screenshot

Residents of a long-term nursing and rehabilitation facility in Colorado organized a protest against the state's COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday.

What are the details?

According to KCNC-TV, the protest took place at Fairacres Manor in Greeley.

The station reported that many of the facility's residents — many of them in wheelchairs — stood outside of the facility and held signs that read "Rather die from COVID than loneliness," "Give us freedom," "Prisoners in our own home," and more.

In a statement, Ben Gonzales — assistant administrator at the facility — said that Fairacres' residents are not happy.

"They want to be able to hug their grandchildren, they want to be able to hold the hands of their loved ones," he said.

Resident Council President Sharon Peterson — a 75-year-old woman — told the outlet that she and other residents are desperate for a change.

"We used to be lucky here at Fairacres to show each other what we mean to one another and we cannot do that anymore," Peterson said. "Fairacres follows the rules and, with that, we think they would keep us safe while being able to be with our families again."

Peterson, who helped to organize the demonstration, said that the protest was necessary because "one thing we have to look forward to is a simple hug."

"It gives us meaning," she said. "Fairacres needs to be commended on how well they have cared for all of us, but it's time for our voices to be heard."

Gonzales said that several staff members joined those at the protest, and pledged that the staff wants residents to know "that their voice does matter."

Gonzales also said that Fairacres staff and residents sent letters to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as well as Gov. Jared Polis's office in August, begging for rules to be relaxed to permit physical contact. Gonzales said that no one received a response to the inquiries.

In response to the protest, Polis issued a statement.

“We absolutely understand how difficult it has been for residents of residential care facilities and their families," Polis's office said on Friday. "Social interaction is essential to physical and mental health, and so we have provided guidance to residential care facilities that allows for that interaction while also keeping residents safe from COVID-19."

The statement continued, "Restrictions have been in place previously, but residents are now able to visit loved ones both indoors and outdoors. In addition, we are doing everything possible to help long-term care facilities mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by working directly with facilities on proper infection control practices that have been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19."

According to the Greeley Tribune, the nursing facility was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The outbreak was discovered in late March," the outlet reported. "From then until mid-May, 16 residents were lab-confirmed positive for COVID-19 with another two dozen residents determined to be probable cases, according to CDPHE data."

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