A New York couple married for 58 years got an early Valentine’s Day surprise this week when they were able to reunite in-person for the first time in nearly a year.
After COVID-19 was declared a pandemic last year, Harriet Shenkman was required to stand outside of a patio window at The Bristal at White Plains when she visited her husband, Jerry Shenkman. On Wednesday, the pair stood together in the same room at the assisted living facility, where Jerry is a resident in the Alzheimer’s care program, after 335 days of quarantine.
Speaking to WABC, Harriet said living through a pandemic without her husband at her side has “been quite an experience, and not something I’d ever imagine in my lifetime.”
Jerry, 80, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago, and Harriet has said she believes the months of forced separation has increased her husband’s memory loss. Bristal staff, however, stressed that he hasn’t forgotten his wife, however, and news footage shows him presenting Harriet with a bouquet of flowers to mark the occasion.
“Love is strong and it endures,” The Bristal’s regional director, Winsome Bent, told CBS News. The facility recently revised its visitation policies thanks to an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations among both staff and residents.
Jerry and Harriet, who raised three children and have two granddaughters, were married in 1963. After their wedding, they relocated to North Carolina, where they both completed post-graduate studies, before relocating to New York, where they’ve resided in Riverdale, Pound Ridge and Scarsdale.
Though their reunion was originally going to take place on Valentine’s Day this Sunday, Harriet opted to come early as she is reportedly scheduled to get her second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that day.
“I’m just very delighted that finally visiting opened up and that I’m able to see him,” Harriet told Bronx News 12. “I realized that I have to take every opportunity because in this unprecedented time, you never know if the visiting is going to be prohibited.”
As of Thursday, there have been more than 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state of New York since the start of the pandemic last year.
Though the infection rate has dropped in recent weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged New York residents to “stay united and stay on track” with regard to social distancing protocol amid concerns over mutant strains of the coronavirus.
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