COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday officially issued four new orders that relax the state’s coronavirus restrictions on visits to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
As announced by Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday, the revised orders again allow residential-care residents to have visitors in their private rooms, as well as physically touch each other so long as masks are worn and the resident is vaccinated.
Ohio nursing homes and assisted-living centers are now also required to allow visits of at least 30 minutes so long as coronavirus rules are followed. Until now, such facilities were allowed, but not required, to permit indoor visits of that length.
The orders, signed by ODH Director Stephanie McCloud, still keep a number of coronavirus rules in place. All visitors must schedule visits in advance, sign in, wear a face mask during the entire visit, and practice social distancing with staff and other residents. Each resident can still only have two guests per visit.
One of the orders also expands the number of circumstances when loved ones can schedule indoor “compassionate care” visits at nursing homes that aren’t yet permitted under COVID-19 rules to generally receive visitors. The list of valid reasons for compassionate care visits now includes residents who:
- Have been re-admitted to the facility after an acute-care admission to the hospital
- Have a new order for an anti-psychotic, an anti-depressant, or an appetite stimulant
- Have dementia that has dramatically progressed
- Are no longer responding to loved ones during virtual visits
- Show changes in appearance, grooming, or cognition during window or virtual visits.
Compassionate care visits can be scheduled by calling the state’s long-term care ombudsman at 1-800-282-1206.
Indoor visits can still be limited when fewer than 70% of residents in the nursing home are vaccinated, the building is in a county with a COVID-19 test positivity rate greater than 10%, or there’s an outbreak of coronavirus in the facility.
Under the new orders, staff at Ohio nursing homes must be tested for the coronavirus once per week if they’re vaccinated and twice per week if they’re not vaccinated.
The number of coronavirus cases at Ohio nursing homes has been steadily dropping in recent weeks, since hitting a high of more than 5,100 patient cases in mid-December. Last week, 570 patients and 423 staff in Ohio had reported cases of the virus, according to the state health department.
Read the four new orders in full: