Ohio is taking the first steps to lift the more than two month old ban on visits to some long-term care facilities. Officials says they want to expand this in stages.
Starting June 8, assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities will be permitted to allow outdoor visitations.
Gov. Mike DeWine says banning visits can stop the virus from entering congregate living centers, which make up three quarters of COVID-19 deaths. But he acknowledges the quality of life attributes that come with visits.
"We know this has caused a great deal of heartache inside these facilities with the individuals who are the patients, who are the residents, but we also know it causes a lot of heartache for the individuals who want to come in and visit them," says DeWine.
There are minimum guidelines to follow from the state with the expectation of additional rules created by the facilities, the state requirements include:
- Screening for temperatures and symptom-reporting for visitors
- Scheduled hours and time limits for visits
- Proper social distancing measures
- Face coverings
- Resident, family, and friend education about the risks of the spread of COVID-19
DeWine says the state will track how this goes before possibly expanding visits for nursing homes, where residents are more at risk.
DeWine announced Thursday that the state pharmacy board has distributed updated guidelines, informing pharmacists that they can order and administer testing for COVID-19 in their communities.
DeWine says the state is trying to reach out to pharmacies as a tool to expand access to testing. The Ohio Department of Health has also updated its criteria to allow testing for anyone in the community showing symptoms.
"Pharmacies are an important part of our plan to fight COVID-19, especially when we look towards the future beyond testing, and towards a vaccine," says DeWine.
DeWine says the state is working with the Medicaid office to find a way to make sure tests are covered if a person can't pay. DeWine says that's still a work in progress.
The state will provide a map online that shows which pharmacies and community health centers around Ohio provide COVID-19 tests.