NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Diana Furey and her family wrote to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health on social media about their father, 89-year-old Leroy Shine, who has been in a North Canton nursing home for the past 20 months.
Furey said she created the message on behalf of her family, and hundreds of other Ohio families, who are demanding the federal government and the state safely relax current Ohio nursing home visitation restrictions.
She told News 5 the vast majority of visits with her father have been through a closed first-floor window over the past several months.
“It’s been very difficult," Furey said. "Sometimes yelling through the glass, because they won’t allow us to open the windows anymore.”
“We’re there at the windows a lot, we joke we’re like the birds at the bird feeder, we’re always at the windows. Unfortunately, he’s now been moved to the second floor, so that will stop all of our window visits.”
Furey said current compassion and care visits are irregular, are only once a week, and are simply not enough.
Peter Van Runkle, Executive Director with Ohio Healthcare Association which represents more than 1,000 assisted living agencies statewide is also hoping relaxed visitation guidelines will soon be implemented in Ohio.
“We would love to be able to open things up more," Van Runkle said. "But the restrictions are something that we have to pay attention to.”
“There hasn’t been much movement on anything, visitation just being one example.”
“We certainly sympathize, and it would be nice if the CMS would make some changes.”
“I heard a story just the other day from a member, just kind of unsolicited, we had a person who was really declining a lot, got one compassion and care visit and it made all the difference in the world.”
News 5 contacted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about this story, and in response it issued new, more relaxed visitation guidelines.
It issued the following statement:
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued updated guidance today for nursing homes to safely expand visitation options during the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency (PHE).
This latest guidance comes as more than three million doses of vaccines have been administered within nursing homes, thanks in part to the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization for emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the updated guidance, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise that would limit visitation for:
- Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
- Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
- Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.
News 5 contacted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's office about when the new guidelines will be implemented in Ohio, but we're still waiting for a response.
They are changes in the state visitation policy Furey said can't come soon enough.
“Our older seniors are in these places and some of them are failing to thrive,” Furey said.
“We’re making a way for weddings, for proms, for sports, for restaurants, why are we neglecting probably the most vaccinated segment of our population?”
“Why are we keeping them locked away in prisons of safety, and it is no longer humane to do this.”