Little Juliette Berkhemer is only months away from finding out the truth about her grandparents – they don’t live on her mother’s cell phone.
And for that, Juliette, a 14-month-old baby girl from Jersey City, New Jersey, can thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Monday gave grandparents already vaccinated against Covid-19 the green light to be reunited. with loved ones they had to stay away from because of the pandemic.
For almost as long as Juliette has been alive, her only contact with her grandmother and grandfather in Houston has been in FaceTime chats, her mother, Becca Hoffman, said.
“She’s so excited when they call,” Hoffman said. “She wants to phone and jab. She was only a few months old when my parents saw her, and then the pandemic happened. This is how Juliette knows them, just over the phone.
Horny grandmother Renee Hoffman said Juliette was just a newborn when she saw her – and her grandson, Vincent, now 7 – in January 2020.
“I thought I would see them again soon, then Covid hit,” said Hoffman, 60.
Now the Hoffmans are conspiring to return to New Jersey as soon as possible.
“Vincent already knows we hope to come, but Juliette doesn’t,” Renee Hoffman said. “She’s going to be so surprised. She thinks we’re living in FaceTime on the phone.”
There are legions of older Americans like the Hoffmans who, fearful of contracting Covid-19, were forced for over a year to do without hugs, kisses, their sons, daughters and grandchildren.
The CDC acknowledged the pain in its first federal public health advice on how people who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine can return to some semblance of normal life.
“For example,” the CDC wrote, “fully immunized grandparents can visit indoors with their healthy unvaccinated daughter and healthy children without wearing masks or physical distancing, provided they are none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19. “
These were words Renee Hoffman feared she would never hear.
“It’s been 13 months, 13 very long months,” she said. “It was very hard.”
Becca Hoffman said she felt very stressed while visiting her parents in January 2020, in the dead of winter.
“I felt like I didn’t like him enough,” she says. “But I thought that in a few months or so, we would see them again soon.”
Renee Hoffman said when the pandemic hit, she and her husband, Ted, had spent a lot of time with their other grandson, Aiden, who is now 6 and lives with his parents about an hour’s drive in Conroe , in Texas.
“I kept it a lot before the pandemic,” she said. “The last time we saw him in person was February 27, 2020.”
As Texas, like the rest of the country, began to impose restrictions, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott quickly lifted them to revive the economy and he only imposed a mask mandate in July, when the number of cases of Covid-19 has started to skyrocket. state. He stepped down from the mandate this month, ignoring CDC recommendations.
Renee Hoffman said she and her husband decided early on to listen to medical experts instead of the governor and were diligent in wearing masks.
“I have to say that I started wearing a mask right away and I haven’t been sick once,” she said. “The same goes for my husband. He has heart disease and needs a pacemaker, but this has been delayed because his doctor says it is not yet safe for him to be there. ‘hospital.”
Still, Renee Hoffman said they felt like exceptions to the rule, and watched with dismay as many people around them were lax in wearing masks and seemed indifferent to social distancing. Other families, she said, were reuniting despite the CDC’s warnings, and she admitted it tested their resolve.
“The wait and the inability to see my children, to see my grandchildren, were starting to touch me,” she said. “I was getting to the point where I thought I didn’t care if I got sick. I have to see my kids.”
The Hoffmans were therefore delighted when the country learned in December that the Covid-19 vaccines were on the way.
“Last Friday we received our first dose of Moderna, and we are receiving our second dose on April 2,” said Renee Hoffman. “Our goal is to see Aiden before my husband’s birthday in June.”
And then, at some point, it will be in New Jersey to see Vincent and Juliet, she said.
“Oh my God, we are so excited and very grateful, thankful that the vaccines are available,” she said.
Her voice shaking with emotion, she said she has been running reunion scenarios with her children and grandchildren in her mind for months and now that they suddenly seem possible, she can feel the excitement building.
“I missed them so much,” she said.
In Jersey City, Becca Hoffman said she too was thrilled to be reunited with her parents. But the daily reality of living in a cramped apartment with her husband and two children pushes her to browse real estate listings in suburban New Jersey, and having to home school her son doesn’t give her much of an opportunity. to leave it. imagination wanders.
And right now, she doesn’t dare to fly anywhere with Juliette – and not just because of the Covid-19 threat. “She’s a spicy little girl,” Becca Hoffman said with a chuckle.
So in her mind, she says, it’s summer when her parents come back to Jersey City.
“I have this vision of dragging us across the river to Central Park,” she said. “I would love to have them here.”