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SENATOBIA, Miss. — A Mississippi nursing facility is getting creative when it comes to social distancing, allowing residents to interact and even hug their loved ones but still stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, nursing homes across the Mid-South have closed their doors to visitors to protect the most valuable and vulnerable population.

But for the first time in months, families are getting the chance to reconnect with their loved ones living in the Providence Assisted Living facility in Senatobia.

Using a wooden frame and a shower curtain, staff at the facility made a hugging booth that gives residence the chance to embrace their family while still keeping safe from COVID-19.

“One of the little ladies, she told me, ‘All I live for is my family,’” activity director Bonnie Youngblood said. “And she said, ‘If I can’t touch them, what am I here for?'”

After seeing the concept on social media, Youngblood presented the idea to her director, Dana Hall.

Hall said the facility has been strict on social distancing. Only one resident and four employees have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

But Hall said she was more than willing to make accommodations for the booth. 

“The mental status of the residents, that’s what been so hard, because they can’t see their families. They can’t touch them. They can’t hug them. And they get depressed,” she said.

Hall said residents are only allowed 15 minutes of interaction with a few minutes at the booth and the rest spent outside in an open area.

Eloise Faust says she usually communicates with her mother through a wall or on the phone, but she says nothing compares to a loving embrace.

‘We’re just so thrilled that we got this opportunity because they’re so lonely and they’ve been shut in for so long,” Faust said.

Hall said they plan on continuing the hugging booth for as long as possible.