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Governor DeWine announces internal review of nursing home operations

Governor willing to send National Guard to facilities in need
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Posted at 7:07 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 20:11:21-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For more than two weeks, News 5 has looked into claims from family members, employees and residents of Heartland of Willoughby, a Lake County nursing home.

While the Ohio Department of Health does not release the number of COVID-19 deaths inside nursing homes, the latest data shows at least 75 residents and 29 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Heartland of Willoughby.

We have now started receiving similar questions and concerns about other nursing homes across Northeast Ohio.

Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that the state is internally reviewing COVID-19 protocols and operations at nursing homes.

“We are reviewing these again internally to see whether or not, frankly, are we doing enough?” DeWine said. “We're having another review of what we're doing as far as the surveys, the inspections that are going on in the nursing homes.”

After News 5 brought forth concerns from relatives about communication issues between families and facilities and slowing the spread of the virus inside nursing homes, DeWine mentioned the possibility of widespread distribution of hundreds of thousands of rapid antigen tests at nursing homes.

“We don't have this worked out yet. We’re not ready to announce anything. We're working with nursing homes to talk with them and working with others,” DeWine said. “We are looking, for example at, you know, making that available to nursing homes to fill in gaps where the testing is not adequate enough or it's not frequent enough with staff, for example.”

He said the possibility of that increase in tests, combined with additional family visitation at nursing homes during the winter months, could alleviate some of the communication issues between families and facilities.

“These could be up to 228,000 tests every shipment. And that could, you know, that's going to enable us to do a lot of different things that we have not done in the past,” DeWine said. “There's a possibility that we could use some of those tests to enable you to see your mother more often.”

DeWine added the state is willing to send the National Guard to facilities that need staffing assistance.

“We don't hesitate to send in the National Guard when the National Guard is needed,” DeWine said.

When given the opportunity by the governor Tuesday to follow those new details with an additional follow-up question, News 5 was told by Dan Tierney, the governor’s press secretary, that follow-up questions would not be allowed.