COLUMBUS, Ohio — Residents of Ohio’s assisted living and intermediate care facilities will be able to see visitors again starting June 8, Gov. Mike DeWine announced in his Thursday afternoon press briefing. Residents of nursing homes will have to continue waiting.
All visits must take place outdoors and with COVID-19 prevention measures in place, including screening visitors for symptoms, requiring them to wear masks and mandating that they stay six feet away from the person they are visiting, he said. Each individual facility will have some freedom to customize its visitation policy beyond that based on its capacity, layout and the health of its patients.
By the time these visits begin, the people receiving them will have been under strict quarantine for nearly three months.
“Our decision to move forward with outdoor visitation is the culmination of many things, including impact on the quality of life and what a prolonged loss of connection can have on that individual,” he said.
DeWine shut down visitation to Ohio's long-term care facilities in mid-March, acting on widespread advice to limit potential infection among the people most at risk: Seniors and people living in congregate settings. Despite the shutdown, people in such facilities make up a full 15% of Ohio’s COVID-19 cases and a little over half of its COVID-associated deaths. Workers there comprise about 7% of known diagnoses.
According to data posted by the Ohio Department of Health, the problem is most acute in nursing homes.
DeWine assured Ohioans that the visitation guidelines had been created with the help of senior care provides and advocates, but neither he nor the Ohio Department of Health immediately provided a complete list of those guidelines Thursday afternoon.
He described allowing visits at assisted living and intermediate care facilities as a cautious first step toward potentially, in the future, allowing people in nursing homes to have visitors as well.
“This is a very difficult issue,” he said. “We know the problems connected with COVID getting into nursing homes, and we’re trying to do absolutely everything we can to keep COVID out of the nursing homes, but we also know that people are suffering by not having these visits. We’re going to try to do this in stages, we’re going to see how this works, we’re going to look at our numbers and see how the spread is occurring.”
The Ohio National Guard will begin testing all staff members and some residents at state nursing homes beginning Monday morning.