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Governor lifts ban on in-person indoor visits to nursing homes

WARREN — Visitations will be allowed indoors beginning Monday at facilities where people with developmental disabilities live, and Oct. 12 in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday during his coronavirus update.

“Throughout the pandemic, older Ohioans have certainly been particularly hard hit,” DeWine said. “Seniors who live in a congregate setting are susceptible to the spread of the virus, probably more so than others. At the beginning, our nursing home facilities and assisted-living facilities were closed to visitors. And we did that early on to protect the residents and to protect the people who work there the best we could. We know, however, that this was hard. It was hard for the residents of nursing homes and residents of assisted living. And it was hard for the families.”

Though outdoor visitations have been allowed at the facilities for several months now, at the discretion of the facility, the outdoor visitations will no longer be viable in colder weather, DeWine said.

“We know that outdoor visitation will no longer work. So we have been working on coming up with indoor visitation (policies),” DeWine said.

It is important for people living away from their friends and families to have interaction with their loved ones, said DeWine and Ursel McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging and Jeff Davis, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

McElroy said visitation restrictions have put a “strain” on residents of the facilities, their family members and the staff at the agencies.

But, there will still be rules and guidelines in places for the facilities, residents and visitors to follow, and the decision to allow more visitation options does not mean the danger presented by the coronavirus is over, McElroy and DeWine said.

“It is important for everyone to know that indoor visitation does not signal that we can be less cautious. What it means is each of us, residents, families and staff need to be even more vigilant in practicing the very basic yet very critical practices that limit the spread of this virus. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance and limit your visiting time. And most of all, stay home if you think you’ve been exposed or are feeling ill,” McElroy said.

Visits will be limited to 30 minutes and two guests at a time.

“This makes it possible to have a meaningful interaction, but it also allows more families time to visit. And, it gives the facilities time between each visit to sanitize spaces,” McElroy said.

The guests must be able and willing to wear a mask and practice social distancing, according to the state officials.

Before allowing expanded visitation, facilities should develop a plan for distribution to residents and visitors, and consider several elements within the community and facility, McElroy said. The guidelines are largely similar for homes and facilities where people with disabilities live together, Davis said.

Case numbers in the communities should be considered, if the transmission rates are lower, it will likely be safer to allow the visits; local hospital capacity so an outbreak can be handled; positive cases in the facility should also be considered; along with ensuring the facility has adequate testing ability, enough personal protection gear and enough staffing.

Visitors and staff should be screened, a daily log of people entering the facility should be kept and visits must be scheduled in advance.

“And remember, when you enter one of these facilities, you are entering someone’s home. And, to that point, for families who are visiting, always remember that you are walking into the home of not only your loved one, but into the home of their friends and others,” McElroy said.

In the daily briefing, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the order banning sports teams from playing more than one team in a day has been lifted. Now, teams will be able to play tournament-style games, he said.

“This change comes over a month after the most recent guidelines were published with evidence showing that events have gone on without any noticeable increase in spread,” according to the governor’s office.

Also, DeWine announced he is working with the General Assembly to identify funds to help pay for mental health services in schools and communities, because of the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health.

New cases of the virus in the state came in under 1,000, barely at 991, for the sixth day in a row Thursday, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The total number of cases reported in the state is 147,744, 127,239 of the cases are presumed recovered and 4,715 deaths have been reported.

One new death was reported Thursday in Trumbull County, bringing the total to 132, according to ODH data. The county has had 1,876 cases total, up 15 since Wednesday; 1,651 cases are presumed recovered.

One new death was reported Thursday in Mahoning County, too, bringing the total to 281. There have been 3,030 cases reported in the county, up 16 since Wednesday; 2,618 are presumed recovered.

No new deaths were reported Thursday in Columbiana County, where 80 people have died. There have been 1,924 cases reported in the county, one new case since Wednesday; 1,789 cases are presumed recovered.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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