I-Team: Family Says State Guidelines Kept Elderly Mother Isolated Despite Receiving COVID Shot

Despite being fully vaccinated, an 87-year-old woman was forced to quarantine at a long-term care hospital after there was a COVID case on her floor. WBZ-TV's Cheryl Fiandaca reports.

Video Transcript

- Family heartbroken. They say COVID guidelines kept them from their elderly mother in her last days even though she'd been vaccinated. The long-term-care hospital where she was being cared for says with a COVID case on her floor, it had to quarantine residents. Visits were suspended. And, tragically, the family would not get another chance.

WBZ's chief investigator Cheryl Fiandaca has the story.

STEVEN GURDIN: It gave her hope.

CHERYL FIANDACA: Phyllis Gurdin, a trailblazer and an activist in her day, couldn't wait to be vaccinated so she could finally see her family.

STEVEN GURDIN: She got her first vaccine actually on her 87th birthday in January.

WILLIAM GURDIN: And I'm fully vaccinated. I was looking forward to being able to see her. I knew she was very lonely and scared, and I wanted to reassure her.

CHERYL FIANDACA: Like many folks with loved ones in long-term-care hospitals, the Gurdins had not been able to see Phyllis for several months. So they were thrilled when Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale opened up for visits in early March.

STEVEN GURDIN: I had a scheduled visit during that 14-day period that they cancelled. Once she was vaccinated, she actually got quarantined because apparently someone on her floor had tested positive.

WILLIAM GURDIN: She called me and was very upset. And she said, Bill, you're a doctor. I got vaccinated. Why did I get vaccinated? Medically, I'd give her a lot of reason to be vaccinated. Emotionally, I couldn't give her one.

CHERYL FIANDACA: The facility says it follows Massachusetts guidelines for hospitals, telling the I-Team while a majority of patients are vaccinated, "it remains vigilant. Even one case of COVID-19 infection causes us to initiate a vigorous infection-control review, which often leads to aggressive testing, closing the floor to visitation to mitigate any further spread."

Steve Gurdin finally got in to see his mom last Monday.

STEVEN GURDIN: Perfectly safe environment. We were both masked, socially distance. There was like a glass sort of shield between the two of us, and then she used a hearing device so I could talk into the device. And I was able to, you know, hold her hand, and I snuck in a hug on the way out. I had no idea that was going to be the last visit. I mean, she died unexpectedly 48 hours later.

CHERYL FIANDACA: Phyllis died of natural causes. The family says she got good care at the facility and blames the state for strict guidelines that they say kept her isolated and away from everyone she loved.

WILLIAM GURDIN: I'm upset. I'll never get a chance to say, you know, goodbye or I love you.

- First-born.

CHERYL FIANDACA: Neither will Phyllis's grandchildren who were her pride and joy. Under 18, they were not allowed to visit at all. 11-year-old Danielle says the two shared a special bond.

DANIELLE GURDIN: She always, like, complimenting me on everything I did and never said anything bad to me, and I loved being with her.

CHERYL FIANDACA: We asked the Department of Health about the guidelines, but we did not hear back. Cheryl Fiandaca, WBZ News.

- And just moments ago, in fact, the state responded to the I-Team. It said it recently updated its visitation guidance, relaxing some of the regulations on visits between fully vaccinated residents and families but not soon enough for that family, sadly.

- My heart just absolutely breaks for them.

- The whole family and especially those grandchildren who won't see her again.