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Health officials concerned about unintended consequences of notifications

Some worry nursing homes will be stigmatized
Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 19:17:47-04

PARMA, Ohio — As Ohio's new order takes effect requiring nursing homes to notify residents and their families of COVID-19 cases, some worry there could be unintended consequences to the new rule.

"We don't want these businesses, long term care facilities and nursing homes to be stigmatized," said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan.

On Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced new rules requiring notification any time a worker or resident in a nursing home tests positive for COVID-19. A list of nursing homes hit by the virus will also be posted on the state's department of health website.

"If you're thinking about taking a loved one, or if you're thinking about going to a nursing home, you have every right to know what the situation is there," said DeWine.

Local health officials said most nursing homes were already doing a good job of keeping residents and their families in-the-know when cases were diagnosed.

Still, Dave Covell, Lorain County's Public Health Commissioner, said ordering nursing homes to provide the notifications can help calm fears.

"One of the big problems we heard early-on was that some people in these homes, if their loved one was in a home, the first time they were hearing it was in the media, and they weren't necessarily getting a contact first," said Covell.

He believes the state, with access to a database of all cases, is best equipped to release the information.

"We can't really query based on the facility," said Covell, "so when people requested how many do you have for this facility, A, that changes quickly, and then, B, what we're doing is is looking at each case and investigating case-by-case, so for us, it's a lot better for this to happen at the state level."

But Allan worries some may see the list of affected nursing homes and cut-off shipments of supplies to workers and residents inside facilities.

"We want to make sure that the supplies for the workers and for all the residents of those facilities are available for them," said Allan.

Health officials stress they've been working with nursing homes even before the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 hit Northeast Ohio, and will continue to do so.

"It's not a failure of leadership in any of those organizations, or a failure everyone wanting to do the right thing," said Cuyahoga County Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett. "This is a reflection of the degree to which our community has been impacted by coronavirus or COVID-19."