'No visitors will be admitted' at Ohio nursing homes, Governor DeWine says

coronavirus nursing home restrictions
Posted at 9:28 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 23:24:09-04

AKRON, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the state would soon update its order limiting visitors at nursing homes and assisted living facilities “to reflect that no visitors will be admitted,” in hopes of protecting vulnerable patients from COVID-19 exposure.

For Chip Boggess-Smith, whose mother is a resident at an Akron nursing home owned by Communicare Health, the policy isn’t entirely clear. Her mother is in hospice, and as of Wednesday, Boggess-Smith was told she would be allowed to visit her mother for an hour a day.

Boggess-Smith’s mother has been at the nursing home for more than a year and in hospice for most of that. She visits her mother daily, but this week, she had a cold, so her brother went in her place.

“He called me and said, ‘They won’t let me in to see Mom,’” Boggess-Smith said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, what do you mean they won’t let you in?’ And he said, ‘They’re turning away all visitors.’”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Communicare Health told News 5 its facilities would allow hospice patients to have family members visit, although other visitors would be limited.

However, he said if the governor were to restrict visitors even further, they’d follow those orders.

“If he says no visitation, even in those circumstances where you have a hospice patient, then we will abide by it,” Fred Stratmann, the spokesperson, said.

The governor’s office said the Ohio Department of Health would update the order that would allow no visitors into nursing and assisted living homes.

At Thursday’s press conference, DeWine said that change came after nursing homes said the initial restrictions didn’t go far enough.

“This is not something that we want to do, but no one knows the safety of the patients but the nursing homes themselves,” DeWine said.

Boggess-Smith understands the precautions and doesn’t want to put anyone at risk. She just wants to visit her mother.

“My mother is hospice. She’s dying,” Boggess-Smith said. “I’m not going to leave her in her confused state wondering why her family has abandoned her.”