The Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, Illinois, is home to around 250 residents, many of whom are medically fragile. During the pandemic, these residents and their families have been separated by lockdowns, which have continued long after the rest of the country has been opening up.

Rita Winkeler, who runs the Murray Parents Association, said the pandemic was devastating for her family — and for many others with loved ones at the facility.

“One day they [told] us you can no longer come in, and the next time we got to see our loved ones was four months later,” Winkeler said.

On another occasion, Winkeler’s family had plans to visit her son the following day. But the night before, a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

“So then we had another two weeks to wait,” she said.

Families with loved ones in facilities for the developmentally disabled are especially eager to spend the holidays together this year. But as the pandemic continues, they face new uncertainty and continuing lockdowns even as the rest of the country tries to get back to normal.

Margaret Nygren, who heads the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said the impact of COVID-related closures is greater for people in congregate care facilities because they are already somewhat isolated from the rest of the world.