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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Limited From Holding Hands, Idaho Chaplains Grab Onto Hope, And Bonding Through Pandemic Tragedy

Hospitals blocked visitors during the pandemic to reduce the virus’s spread. Chaplains like Rick Kerr and Carla Sampson stepped up to the task, as patients and medical workers endured a toll beyond physical ailments.

Kerr works at St. Luke’s Health System. Before the pandemic, he often used touch as a tool to console people in need.

But things are different during the pandemic.

“I had a patient just reach over and grab my hand, and immediately you kind of stop. 'Is this OK, is it not OK?' and it's just one of the things that we're wrestling with.

Chaplains navigated COVID-19 safety protocols that limited things like touch or hugging. The rules created struggles, and often came with a cost.

Kerr was on Idaho Matters with his colleague, Chaplain Carla Sampson. She said they navigated many compromises last year.

“Sometimes families would opt not to even come into the hospital or only one person could come in," she said. "We were it.”

But during their work, there were many moments to create human connections, sometimes during times of tragedy.

“The love of people that people have for one another, for humanity, has really touched me a lot in the midst of all this here at the hospital and out and around,” said Kerr. 

They said they worry about the long-term effects of this last year, especially for children. But, their accumulated experiences of these shared moments of tragedy also gives them hope.

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