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Families offer love through Williamstown Commons' windows as coronavirus spreads within

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Mother and daughter cried together, their hands pressed against either side of the window separating them at Williamstown Commons.

Linda Bondini, 63, scribbled in a notebook with a black marker, pressing her words to the glass for 96-year-old Eleanor Robinson to read.

"I love you," one note said.

Inside her room within the nursing home, Robinson used a tissue to dab at the corner of her eyes as she beamed at her only daughter. Robinson tested positive for COVID-19 last week, Bondini told The Eagle.

The virus steadily has spread throughout the facility since its leaders announced the first case last week. A spokeswoman for the facility said 20 residents have the virus, and an additional resident has since been taken to the hospital for further treatment.

Six Berkshire residents have died of the virus, including a woman who died at the nursing home Saturday.

Visitors have been prohibited from entering Williamstown Commons since Gov. Charlie Baker issued nursing home restrictions March 12, prompting window-side visits with family members instead.

Robinson seemed active and alert despite her diagnosis, sticking out her tongue for an Eagle photographer, and standing and moving around with ease as she presented photos of her grandchildren in the window.

She scoffed angrily at Bondini, scrunching her face and tossing up her hands when her daughter asked how she was feeling.

"She still has her sense of humor," her daughter said, noting that her mother has had a cough.

Bondini, who lives in Windsor, Conn., said other family members have visited by way of the window, but to see her doing so well in person offered comfort.

"I had to see her for myself," she said.

Beige cement walls wrapped around the building, articulated with windows filled with floral arrangements, statues and photo frames. One staffer came outside for a break, removing his mask to reveal deep red lines where the mask had cupped his cheeks.

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In a room on the other side of the building, a nurse held the phone to 95-year-old Rose Righi's ear while her son, Wayne Righi, spoke to her from outside the window. Rose tested positive for the virus last week, her son said.

She smiled big at Wayne, who had removed the exterior screen to see his mother better. They told each other "I love you."

Rose blew Wayne a kiss before reaching at oxygen tubes pushing air into her nostrils.

"I can't breathe," she told him.

"You gotta breathe through your nose, mom," he told her. The nurse said the same.

She helped lean Rose back, encouraging her to take deeper breaths.

"You're my sweetheart," Rose told her son. "My baby."

Wayne said he has been touched in recent days by how loving and helpful the staff has been.

"These people are doing a fantastic job," he said, his eyes wet with tears. "They deserve a bonus."

Isolation has been hard for Robinson, Bondini said, describing her as "a social butterfly." She said her mother lived independently before a fall in August left her with several broken ribs.

Through the glass, Robinson asked her daughter to take her home.

"When this is gone," her daughter replied, "we'll come and get you out."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, or at 413-464-2859.


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