Ohio’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities will begin allowing residents to receive some indoor visitors starting Oct. 12, Ohio Department of Aging director Ursel McElroy announced Thursday during Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 news conference.
These facilities began allowing outdoor visitation over the summer, but McElroy and DeWine said the onset of autumn could quickly make such visits unfeasible. Indoor visits will help keep residents connected to their loved ones as the COVID-19 pandemic, which is uniquely deadly to seniors, continues to limit their everyday contact with the world outside.
“Throughout the pandemic, older Ohioans have certainly been particularly hard-hit,” DeWine said.
Residents will be allowed two visitors per visit; visits will last a maximum of 30 minutes. Everyone involved must wear a facility-provided face covering, meet in a designated visiting area and remain six feet apart throughout.
Although Oct. 12 will be the official green-light for indoor visits statewide, McElroy said nursing homes and assisted living facilities must remain cautious and meet state-set guidelines before they begin participating.
Staff should, for instance, assess the status of the pandemic in the surrounding community — how many cases are there? — and their own readiness for a possible outbreak, including their supplies of personal protective equipment and their staffing levels.
If the facility or surrounding community are not equipped to handle a possible influx of COVID-19 cases, if staffing is not adequate to ensure safe visits and resident care, and if testing is not sufficient for staff and residents, the facility should delay in-person visits until it is ready.
McElroy said residents, staff and families should expect to receive more information before the Oct. 12 start date.
By the numbers
Ohio's 21-day new-diagnosis average on Thursday was 982 — below 1,000, however slightly, for the first time in weeks, DeWine said.
The Ohio Department of Health recorded 991 new cases, 74 new hospitalizations and 28 new deaths between Wednesday and Thursday.
The virus continues to be most concerning in rural counties, according to DeWine and ODH. Each of the counties with the highest rate of COVID-19 spread relative to population — Mercer, Putnam, Shelby, Athens and Pike — is home to fewer than 70,000 people.
Pike was a new addition to the top-five list on Thursday, having diagnosed only only about 120 cases all spring and summer. In the week leading up to Sept. 24, however, 40 people were diagnosed; about half of those had contracted the virus at a large event in a neighboring county.
A political detour
DeWine, a Republican who typically shies away from addressing President Donald Trump's frequent controversies, was repeatedly pressed for comment on the president's intimation that he might refuse to accept an unfavorable result in the Nov. 3 election. When asked if he would condemn the president's remarks, DeWine declined.
“I’m not going to condemn anything,” he said. “I don’t know what’s in his heart and his mind. Look, anybody who runs for president wants to win, and they’re going to fight, and they’re going to fight all the way through. But without exception, I believe, without American history, the loser — once it’s determined that you are the loser — concedes, and we move on. That will happen whoever loses this election.
"I understand, there’s been a lot in the news media the last 24 hours about that. That is not going to happen. Whoever loses … once that’s done and it’s determined that we have a winner, the loser goes off-stage."
DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, whose last role in Ohio government was as secretary of state, both encouraged Ohioans to have faith in the electoral process and the security of the upcoming election.