LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Andrew Bosko celebrated his 99th birthday alone at a table full of cupcakes while his loved ones drove by and waved.
For his 100th birthday this summer, the great-grandfather will be surrounded by his family.
“Now they can come and see us. It’s very, very enjoyable,” Bosko said.
Since Bosko doesn’t have a smartphone, he hasn’t been able to see pictures of his growing great-grandchildren.
“Man are they big,” he said. “They’re very, very big. I can’t believe how much they’ve grown already, especially since I haven’t been able to see them right up close.”
On Tuesday, his granddaughter Cara Bosko was able to share pictures of their family with him for the first time since the pandemic began.
“This is the first time I’ve done this in a year. Just this, just to sit next to him is amazing. I got chills. It’s the best feeling,” she said.
Bosko lives at Lake Morton Plaza in downtown Lakeland.
After Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all visitation restrictions at long-term care facilities last week, Lake Morton Plaza moved forward with fully reopening its facility to visitors.
“I’m almost lost for the words to say how amazing this has truthfully been for them,” said Holly Smith, director of sales at Lake Morton Plaza.
Lake Morton Plaza partially reopened in September.
Guests were required to wear full PPE, including gowns and masks, and make appointments for short, limited visits.
“We had designated areas that we were having to sanitize between visits. It wasn’t always the perfect time for families to be able to come and visit,” Smith said.
Eighty-nine of the 109 residents at Lake Morton Plaza are vaccinated. Employees are required to sign up for and receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“They want to be able to do things and they know that’s the step they’re going to have to take to be able to go out and do the things they want to,” Smith said.
Visitors still must wear masks, get their temperature checked and answer a questionnaire before entry.
“Assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities must follow state and federal recommendations and industry best practices for visitation, infection prevention, and the screening and triage of everyone entering a facility for signs and symptoms of COVID-19,” wrote the Agency for Health Care Administration in a statement announcing the lifted restrictions.
Residents can only be quarantined if they do not pass screening criteria when returning to the building, according to the state.
At Grace Manor Suites, time limits have been lifted but visitations are limited to two guests per room.
8 On Your Side contacted the corporate owner of Opis Highlands Lake Center, a facility hard hit by COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, to find out what their visitation protocols are right now.
We were told “no comment.”