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WAYNE — For the first time since mid-March, residents at the Wayne Nursing & Rehabilitation Center were able to walk out the front doors as family members and others in the Wayne community came together for a drive-by parade to greet them.

The facility, operated by American Medical Facilities Management, experienced one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the Mountain State when more than 80 employees and residents tested positive for the virus. Seventy-seven of those individuals made a full recovery and were able to celebrate on the parking lot of a nearby church Thursday evening during a “Heart, Honk and Holler” parade.

“It was hard, even before we had COVID, for these residents not to see their families, so it was a really good thing for all of us tonight,” Executive Director Cindy Cooper said. “There are no words to explain how we feel about them being able to see everybody.”

Pam Smith and her husband, Tim, stood off to the side as cars drove past and waved. Pam Smith said she was thankful that Sam Smith, her father-in-law, was healthy and able to participate in the event.

“We knew he had (the virus), and they had called us to say that he had taken a turn for the worse. For four or five days he was really sick, and because of a surgery he had, he’s only got one lung and we weren’t sure he’d make it, but we’re sure glad he did,” Smith said.

It was the first time they’d seen him without looking through a window or phone screen in more than three months.

Smith praised the staff for their hard work during the pandemic, and also the community for coming out to support the residents and employees.

Residents were stationed in a line on the parking lot while family members and others drove past them to show support. Though they couldn’t get out and greet residents, Cooper said the facility is working on a plan to allow limited visitation that will align with guidelines set by Gov. Jim Justice.

Justice announced Wednesday that visitation at nursing homes in the state will be phased back in. Facilities can choose to resume visitation with approval from the Department of Health and Human Resources if they have been free from positive cases of COVID-19 for two weeks. Last week will count toward the two-week benchmark.

Protocol will vary from facility to facility, said DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch, and it is up to the facility how and if they permit visitation based on factors such as staffing.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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