COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order Monday that requires long term care facilities to notify residents and families within 24 hours if a resident or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
While ODH had been strongly encouraging facilities to notify families prior to the order, it is now required protocol under the order, DeWine said.
With multiple nursing homes across the state of Ohio reporting clusters of positive COVID-19 cases, some of which have resulted in deaths, DeWine’s order aims to help keep residents and families informed to slow the spread of the virus.
The state will be providing a list of long-term care facilities with positive COVID-19 cases on its website.
While the numbers are to keep the public informed, Acton emphasized the importance to not stigmatize against the nursing homes with positive cases.
“It’s not the fault of a nursing home,” Acton said. “Most nursing homes are doing an outstanding job, but it is the fact that this disease is so contagious and as even workers or caregivers come, even as doctors were visiting these nursing homes, anyone of us could asymptomatically be carrying this virus from the community into a place like this.”
Acton said the stigma and fear that comes from hearing about positive cases at a long-term care facility can cause problems for the facility, such as difficulty finding food delivery drivers willing to fulfill orders to the location after hearing of the positive cases.
“They need us now more than ever,” Acton said. “I just think it's really important as we look at this data—it’s not a blame game. We’ve really got to get away from that. This is about ‘How do we help?’ game, ‘How do we do more?’ ‘How do we do better with what we have?’ and that’s what we’re deeply committed to and that’s what the governor is deeply committed to.”
Just days ago, Sam Hemoud was frustrated at the lack of information regarding more than a dozen COVID-19 cases at the Avon Lake nursing home where his 75-year-old father lives.
"Honestly from last week to today, it’s like day and night," Hemoud said. "We moved a mountain. I’m not gonna lie, we moved a mountain."
Hemoud said he is happy about the new order from the state and said that his father's nursing home has stepped up with providing information. He said he was grateful to many people, including the governor and other elected officials, for making this happen.
"We can actually sleep when we go to bed at night and rest," Hemoud said. "We’re getting phone calls, FaceTime, an email every night from the facility now."
Kat Bray, public information officer for Lorain County Public Health, said, "We are happy with the orders, and as long as the nursing facilities are able to notify families and their stakeholders ahead of time before the media, we think that's great, and this new order will allow them to do that in a 24-hour window."
She said that the county's long-term care and nursing home facilities have already been doing a "great job" of that and that those facilities "are already reporting and in daily contact with our epidemiology, and that will not change."
Donna Skoda, health commissioner at Summit County Public Health, said she believes the new order is a good thing, since people can't visit their family members in nursing homes right now.
"It does give you a reassurance to know that you can actually talk to somebody about your loved one," Skoda said.
She believes most facilities were trying to get that information to families as soon as they could, but that some may have been hindered by the length of time it takes to get a test result back.
"I think it’s been more difficult, but I think this will put it to bed and they’ll be able to say, 'Hey, we’re going to call, we’re going to notify, we have to notify you,'" Skoda said.
For Hemoud, it reassures him his father is safe during a time when he can't make sure of that himself in person.
"The stress is not there," Hemoud said. "We can actually relax and we know my dad is getting excellent care now, and that’s all we wanted."
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