GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Although COVID-19 restrictions have been loosened at nursing homes for about a month, residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home haven’t been as lucky.
Since March, they have been on lockdown, even those on independent living status.
The outdoor adventure these days at the Armed Forces Retirement Home ends at the gate unless residents want to pay the price.
“We can leave the grounds anytime we want,” said Doris Denton, a resident and Marine Corps veteran. “We have to get permission to do so. When we come back, we have to stay in our rooms for 14 days.”
That, Denton said, is the worst part.
“It’s boring as all get out,” she said. “But it’s worth it if you have to and take care of things somewhere else.”
The latest report in September indicated that there were only three positive COVID-19 test results at the AFRH - all staff - and all were quarantined and isolated.
“We don’t like the idea of being locked in like this, but we understand that it’s a necessity,” Denton said. “I feel we’re in the safest place in the world. We don’t have COVID here with our residents.”
Resident Diana Dopp, a Navy veteran, has a light-hearted attitude.
“It’s a little bit frustrating for me, yeah, because I’ve gone a long time without a Starbucks,” she said with a laugh. “It’s one of my favorite drinks.”
She seriously misses the interaction with other residents, primarily those in assisted living and long-term care. Communication is by telephone.
“They’re the ones I worry about more,” she said. “I have good friends there and a lot of them are struggling.”
She added that she appreciates the staff for their hard work.
“And they’ve done it with smiles and courtesy and we really appreciate that, for keeping us safe," Dopp said.
Navy veteran Harry Flood said there’s only so much one can do to stay occupied, even in a facility like the AFRH.
“You know, I’ve read enough books, watched movies, made enough puzzles until I think my eyeballs are going to fall out,” he said.
He’s also worried about the isolation that has come with this lockdown.
“People are beginning to, in certain cases I think, their mental health begins to decline,” he said. “And I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, and that concerns me most.”
Spokesperson Christopher Kelly, told WLOX News Now that the Armed Forces Retirement Home is planning to soon begin drive-through visits with residents by family and friends, under CDC and CMS guidance and dependent on new COVID cases and testing status on campus.
AFRH is currently tracking five open COVID cases among the staff: three employees and two contractors, all of whom are recovering at home.
But the home has not had any new positive cases since September 28th and does not currently have any COVID cases among residents.