Even after both coronavirus vaccine doses, Evelyn Shaw couldn’t shake the nervousness brought on by months of isolation. She was worried, her family says, about reentering a world she so carefully tiptoed around for more than a year.
The salve was delivered in the form of a handwritten note on a prescription pad, with seven words she needed to hear: “You are allowed to hug your granddaughter.”
Her first hug in a year was captured in a short clip shared on Twitter by one of her daughters. She’s embracing her granddaughter, Ateret Frank, through the hiccup of tears and a sigh of relief.
“She read the note and she burst out crying,” Laura Shaw Frank, one of Evelyn’s daughter’s, told The Post. “She felt safe. Finally.”
A simple hug. It’s the kind of moment many are starting to experience as vaccinations ramp up — one of life’s simple joys that for many has felt distant over the last year, at times tainted by worry or guilt.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released much-anticipated guidelines giving fully vaccinated people a sense of how they can socialize and return to daily activities. The guidance, which said individuals two weeks past their final dose may visit indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household, freed many vaccinated grandparents to visit nearby children and grandchildren.
Even before the CDC guidance came out, Evelyn’s family knew she had been worried. When Ateret visited her doctor for a checkup, she mentioned her grandmother’s concerns. That’s when her doctor — who is also her grandmother’s physician — wrote the prescription.
Ateret took the slip home, wrote a personal note, and sealed both in an envelope to give her grandmother when she was two weeks out from her second dose.
Jessica Shaw, who shared the image of the prescription note on Twitter, said she was moved by what their family doctor did to ease her mother’s concerns.
“To be able to say, this is medicinal for you too, this is important,” Jessica said. “The mental health and the toll this has taken is also my job to address. It’s also my way of encouraging you and pushing you out of this nest of isolation she’s been in for the last year and saying you can do this, I know you and I am telling you that not only is this safe for you, this is important for you, I am prescribing this.”
Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist at the University of Washington, said when he saw the clip of Evelyn embracing her granddaughter, he thought, “we need more of this.”
He said earlier in the pandemic, it may have been more effective for health officials to highlight the severity of the virus to encourage people to comply with public health measures. Now, to urge people to hold on for just a bit longer, until vaccinations ramp up and more people can return to their lives, it may be more helpful to “message on hope.”
“It would be a folly not to take those examples and say this is happening, we are veering toward normalcy, and we can get there safely and in the quickest way possible if we do what we are doing for a few more months,” he said.
Jessica said she was overwhelmed by the response from people who saw the moment and said, “I’m going to have this moment, too.”
“We’re in mile 21 of this marathon and I hope it gave them a little bit of fuel to keep going,” she said “This is what you’re going to have, too. My mom’s not alone. Everyone’s going to have this moment.”
The family said throughout the year, they FaceTimed with their mother, often. They all live near each other in New York. So when the weather was nice, they would visit her in person outside and more than six feet away.
“My mom, who is widowed and who lives alone — It’s hard because you want your parent to have support, to have emotional support,” Jessica said. “And you know you are the person — my siblings, my kids, her other grandkids — those are the ones who give her support. But that was the thing that could be the most dangerous. That was really hard for her.”
Gupta said he wasn’t surprised that Evelyn would need an extra nudge from a personal doctor to feel comfortable seeing her family.
“I get constant inquiries along these lines,” he said, adding that it may take time and direct communication from health-care providers to encourage people to return to their lives.
“People need to know it’s OK, they want assurance,” Gupta said. “It gives you a sense of how rattled, anxious and how scared people are.”
Laura said as she watched her daughter and mother finally embrace, she was reminded of a Jewish blessing.
“There’s a blessing that you say when you reach an auspicious moment, you thank God for keeping you alive, enabling you to be there for that moment,” she said. “It had a lot of significance as a moment of change.”