Mother's Day 2021: Vaccines, pandemic recovery create reunions after a year of social distancing

There will be no shortage of moms across the United States opening gifts like flowers and cards on Mother’s Day, but the most meaningful thing they open just might be their arms for a much-needed hug.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a real damper on the annual celebration of moms last year. Even beyond Mother’s Day, moms and grandmothers went without hugging or seeing their loved ones in person for long periods of time.

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Susan Lindenbaum, a 105-year-old grandmother who lives in a senior citizen facility in California, is one of many moms who found herself physically cut off from family throughout 2020.

She told FOX 11 Los Angeles she didn’t know when she’d be able to be in the same space as her daughter and grandchildren again.

"Last year was so hopeless and so very frightening and terrifying and sad. I couldn't see my daughter. I did see her through the door. We threw kisses but other than that, we couldn't touch. We couldn't hug," Lindenbaum explained.

"I could throw kisses to them, with tears, it was terrible. I'm 105 years old. Last year, I was sure it was my last and it was another reason for the tears. It's such a rotten ending but my mood has elevated considerably."

This year, thanks to three FDA-authorized vaccines, Mother’s Day can be safely conducted in person, which means moms like Lindenbaum can have all the hugs and kisses they want — assuming each party is vaccinated.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows for small gatherings indoors for vaccinated people. Non-vaccinated people are still encouraged to socially distance and wear masks in public.

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According to the CDC, More than 151 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 112 million have been fully vaccinated.

Nearly 44% of American adults have been fully vaccinated. And that percentage grows even higher (71%) when isolating people 65 and older.

In the months since the shots began going in arms, the U.S. has seen drastic improvement to the state of the pandemic in the country. The number of daily COVID-19 cases plummeted, as did the rate of hospitalizations and deaths.

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Dianne Wright (C) hugs daughter Tania Wright and baby Mason Buckley at Sydney International Airport on April 19, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Though according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country still has the most confirmed cases in the world (32.6 million), its pace of vaccination has allowed some glimpses of normalcy to return. Many states are rolling back safety protocols enacted before vaccines became available.

Restaurants are increasing capacity and public events are announcing in-person plans after a year of virtual events — which is why many moms are eager to get out of the house this year.

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That’s the case for Jamie Reynolds and her daughter Natalie Johnson, who visited Chicago from Springfield, Illinois. They told FOX 32 Chicago the pandemic has made them value quality time even more.

"It’s been the two of us for a while, just spending every day with her, getting a stronger relationship, it’s been the best," Johnson said.

With all the progress America has made recovering from the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted even more progress ahead of Mother’s Day 2022.

"I hope that next Mother’s Day, we’re going to see a dramatic difference than what we’re seeing right now. I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can." Fauci told ABC News.

Fauci, a key medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said that progress comes with conditions.

"We’ve got to make sure that we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated," he said.

This story was reported from Atlanta.