Indoor visitors will again be welcome at Ohio nursing homes next month
| The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio is planning to reopen nursing homes and assisted living facilities to indoor visitors next month as cooler weather approaches.
But the loved ones of nursing home residents will find their visitation looks a bit different when it starts Oct. 12, said Ursel McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging.
Visits will be limited to two people at a time and to 30 minutes in a designated area of a facility, McElroy said. The designated visitation areas will need to be cleaned in between each visit.
“Indoor visitation does not signal that we can be less cautious …This is a first step of others to come as we responsibly restart,” McElroy said.
Long-term-care facilities also will be required to consider the number of cases in their community and their buildings, their staffing levels, the supply of personal protective equipment and local hospital capacity. The latter is key should an outbreak occur.
Indoor visits at nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been off limits since March when the pandemic first began in Ohio, as they have been among the most deadly locations nationwide. In early June, Ohio began allowing outdoor visitation again at assisted living facilities, and in late July, at nursing homes.
Gov. Mike DeWine has said it’s critical for people living in long-term-care facilities to see their families and friends. The pandemic has been been “particularly hard” on older Ohioans, and the governor said Thursday’s announcement on visitation was “good news” for them and their families.
Before indoor nursing home visits begin, they’ll start again at intermediate care facilities that often care for Ohioans with disabilities. Indoor visitation will start in those buildings Monday.
“We are happy because we know this has been so very hard … We ask for patience and understanding as we try to take this next step,” said Jeff Davis, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.
DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Thursday announced a slew of other pandemic-related changes and recommendations that the state plans to issue.
A previous health order prohibited youth athletes from playing in more than one competition per 24-hour period, Husted said. A forthcoming health order will allow tournaments to restart so that if a team wins a game on a Saturday, it can return and play another team on Sunday, Husted said.
The governor will also issue a recommendation in the coming days for surveillance testing of COVID-19 at Ohio’s colleges. Campuses will be expected to test 3% of their student populations, regardless of symptoms.
“Campuses don’t exist in a bubble,” DeWine said. “Every single one of our campuses, most of them at least, are close to a population center … students do go back and forth, they do intermingle.”
Though cases are still sparse among local school districts, some have started to log cases in the double-digits.
Ohio had a total 466 student COVID cases (up 269 cases from the 197 last week) and 273 employee cases (up 151 cases from 122 last week).
Olentangy reported 16 new cases, for 21 total students, and three new staff cases, for seven total employees. Delaware Christian School reported 18 new student cases, for 23 total students, and its first two staff cases. The two school systems now have the greatest number of cases in Ohio.
In Franklin County, South-Western logged its first cases among 10 students and one employee. Dublin recorded five new student cases, for 10 total, and no new employee cases after reporting two employee cases last week.
Westerville reported its first cases among employees, reporting five as infected.
Columbus City Schools, the state’s largest school district, with about 50,000 students, reported its first case, an infected employee. Students are currently learning remotely through at least the first quarter of the school year, which ends Oct. 27.
Several other schools in Franklin County had reported one or two cases Thursday.
Another 991 Ohioans tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 147,744, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Thursday’s cases were just above the three-week average of 982 new cases reported per day.
More than 2.94 million COVID-19 tests have been administered across the state since the pandemic began in March.
>>Read More: Central Ohio already preparing COVID-19 vaccine plans
The average positive test rate for Ohioans over the previous seven days declined to 2.8% Tuesday, the most recent day for which data is available, according to the state Health Department. That is the lowest average seven-day positive test rate in Ohio since the pandemic began.
Deaths on Thursday rose by 28, which is above a three-week average of 23 new deaths reported per day. So far, the virus has killed 4,715 Ohioans, according to the state.
An additional 74 Ohioans were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday. That’s more than a three-week average of 66 new hospitalizations a day, state data shows.
Admissions to intensive care units on Thursday increased by 10, which is one below a three-week average of 11 new ICU admissions. As of Thursday, 586 Ohioans remained hospitalized with COVID-19, including 199 in ICUs and 105 on ventilators, according to the state.
Franklin County remained at an orange Level 2 COVID-19 advisory after being downgraded for the first time from a red Level 3 advisory a few weeks ago. Delaware County was upgraded to a red Level 3 alert this week, DeWine said.
Franklin County has reported the most cases at 25,545 and the second-most deaths with 606. Cuyahoga County has reported the most deaths so far with 656 and the second-highest number of cases at 17,327, according to the state.
Separately on Thursday, DeWine said he activated around 300 members of the Ohio National Guard after receiving a formal request from Cleveland officials. The Guard will assist in policing around the first presidential debate set for Tuesday at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the governor said.
Dispatch Reporter Alissa Widman Neese contributed to this story.