GREELEY — Waving signs that read such things as “I’d rather die of COVID than loneliness,” and “We are prisoners in our home,” residents of one nursing facility staged their own anti-lockdown protest along one of the busiest streets in Greeley, directly across the street from the city’s largest and longest operating hospital.
“Freedom, freedom, freedom,” one lady chanted while waving a sign that read “we want our families back.”
The protest against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Gov. Jared Polis’ mandates that do not allow nursing home residents to see their loved ones, was thought up, organized and carried out by the residents, with oversight from their nurses and other staff members, said the Assistant Administrator of Fairacres Manor Ben Gonzales.
Gonzales said the facility has a resident council that meets monthly to discuss things that are on residents’ minds. They usually discuss caregivers, things they’d like to do, or offer suggestions, among other things.
However, recently, they brought up the idea of protesting the lockdown as they enter their eighth month of no hugs, no smiles, no kisses from their loved ones.
“We are here to support our residents,” Gonzales said. “If they want to get their voices heard, they have rights just like we should have rights as well. We wanted to make sure that they were able to express those.”
Gonzales said the staff made sure the residents were all placed six feet apart on the grass across from the entrance to North Colorado Medical Center, along a busy 16th Street in the center of town. They were wearing masks and each one had their own member of the staff nearby. The nurses and other personnel were also in all the appropriate personal protection equipment required for their jobs.
Hospital administration who happened to hear of the protest, applauded their efforts and took time to go across the street as well.
One woman, who was not from Greeley, but happened to be at the hospital during the protest yelled across the street “tell them to let you out of jail.”
She identified herself only as a nursing home administrator in another community. She said has seen more deaths due to depression among her residents since the pandemic than she has COVID itself, blaming mandates and restrictions more than the virus.
“The isolation is what kills these people,” she said. “It’s just incredibly sad that they can’t live out the last part of their lives with their family surrounding them.”
Gonzales agreed. He said although the homes are now preparing for indoor visits as the weather gets colder, residents will still not be able to touch or hug their loved ones.
“But that’s what they need,” Gonzales said. “They need that physical contact, to hug their grandchildren.”
Gonzales agreed some of the signs they created were tough to read.
“We as staff members get to go see our family and our loved ones,” Gonzales said. “So, it’s tough when they don’t get to do that. We are held to standards by the government and the state health department. But it’s very understandable. I feel for them. I can’t imagine what they are going through. So, it’s nice to be able to support them in this way. We are here to come together and to support each other.”
Weld County Commissioner Scott James stopped by the facility to lend his support for the protest as well. He said his heart breaks for all the residents of Fairacres and every other facility like it in Colorado.
“They are members of the greatest generation,” James said. “The very generation who fought to overturn tyranny and protect our freedoms. Now these members of that generation have had their freedom taken away via a tyrannous act by unelected bureaucrats. The governor and the CDPHE should immediately work with these facilities to give them a way by which they may hug their loved ones.”