Facing Loss Of Ohio National Guard Help, Nursing Homes Taking On Testing

Jul 14, 2020

The nation’s nursing homes lobbying group has written to Ohio’s Mike DeWine and other governors, warning that without action now there will be more outbreaks, especially if visitors are allowed back in to see loved ones after months away.

Three quarters of Ohio’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths are from its nursing homes. Nationwide, more than 40% of coronavirus deaths are linked to long term care facilities.

The letter from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living calls for states to help with faster lab processing time and reliable, rapid results. And it asks for states to help with acquiring PPE, especially N-95 masks, saying nearly 20% of facilities say they have no PPE or less than a one-week supply.

And the letter says this is especially critical if visitation is allowed to begin in long term care facilities. Ohio banned visitors from skilled nursing homes on March 12, and has announced that outdoor-only visits can begin on July 20. Visits have been allowed at some assisted living facilities for a few weeks.

The Ohio National Guard has been helping with testing in nursing homes, but the federal funds for their pandemic missions runs out August 7.

Pete Van Runkle with the Ohio Health Care Association said skilled nursing facilities will start taking on testing duties and will complete baseline testing of all staff by the end of the month.

But he said that won’t solve the overall problem.

“It’s a tool. It has some value, particularly as the letter states, if the test results can come back quickly enough. But it’s not enough by itself," Van Runkle said.

Van Runkle said good infection control and universal masking inside facilities must happen too, and that tests, to be handled by Qwest Laboratories, need to come back quickly.

Ohio has continued to have huge numbers of deaths from nursing homes, totalling more than three quarters of all confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of the state's last report on July 8.