The next phase in Ohio’s reopening will include visitation at some congregate living facilities, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.
Starting June 8, outdoor visitation will be allowed at Ohio’s assisted-living facilities and intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Visitation is still prohibited at nursing homes.
DeWine said the state moved to relaunch visitation after several requests from families and residents as well as conversations on the topic with advocates and care providers.
“We know it is becoming more and more difficult for people. They’ve been away from their relatives,” DeWine said. “We know this has caused a great deal of heartache inside of these facilities … this is a very difficult issue.”
The state has prepared a set of guidelines with statewide advocacy groups that facilities will be required to follow when offering outdoor visitation.
At minimum, all facilities must develop a policy that includes screening for temperatures and symptom-reporting for visitors; scheduled hours and time limits for visits; proper social-distancing measures; face coverings; and education about the risks of spreading COVID-19.
Long-term care facilities closed to visitors back in March after it was determined that senior citizens were strongly impacted by COVID-19. About 53% of Ohio’s coronavirus deaths (1,114 people) were age 80 or older, according to the state.
An additional 476 Ohioans were diagnosed with COVID-19 since Wednesday, bringing the statewide total of confirmed and probable cases to 33,915, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Thursday’s case count marked the second day in a row that cases increased by fewer than 500.
The state recorded another 54 deaths Thursday, bringing the total number of Ohioans killed by the virus to 2,098. Hospitalizations in Ohio increased by 111 to 5,811, according to the state health department.
DeWine’s administration also released Thursday a set of guidelines for county and local fairs. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is in the process of distributing the guidelines to organizers of 94 county and independent fairs throughout the state.
The guidelines emphasize social distancing, crowd limits, ensuring the health of those involved and the welfare of animals.
The 2020 Ohio State Fair was canceled last week. But DeWine said decisions about fairs should be made locally because each one is “unique and has different challenges.”
The governor also announced some testing changes Thursday.
DeWine said his administration has expanded testing prioritization to include all Ohioans with symptoms.
Until now, Ohioans were prioritized for COVID-19 testing if they had symptoms and were a health-care worker; a first-responder; a hospitalized patient, a resident or employee of a long-term care facility; were 65 or older; had an underlying health condition; were a public health official; or were scheduled to have surgery.
Earlier this week, DeWine said the Ohio National Guard would deploy to nursing homes to test all staff and some residents. National Guard members will start that work Monday, the governor said Thursday.
And pharmacists may begin to play a larger role in COVID-19 testing, after the Ohio Board of Pharmacy clarified federal guidelines this week, DeWine said. Pharmacists will be able to order and administer COVID-19 tests and the state will provide a map of testing locations online at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
“Pharmacies are an important part of our plan to fight COVID-19, especially as we look toward the future beyond testing and toward a vaccine,” DeWine said.
By the numbers
The following are the number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases and deaths in the Akron region as reported by the Ohio Department of Health as of Thursday:
Summit: 1,399 total cases (47 new) and 176 deaths (four new), per Summit County Public Health.
Stark: 705 reported cases (five new), including 91 deaths (unchanged).
Portage: 318 reported cases (five new), including 57 deaths (unchanged).
Medina: 313 reported cases (three new), including 22 deaths (two new).
Wayne: 260 reported cases (four new), including 49 deaths (revised downward by one since Wednesday).
Holmes: 29 reported cases (unchanged), including one death (unchanged).
Ashland: 19 reported cases (unchanged) with no deaths.
Tuscarawas: 337 reported cases (11 new), including three deaths (revised downward by one since Wednesday).
Mahoning: 1,397 reported cases (30 new), including 173 deaths (unchanged).
New cases and deaths were just reported in the past day and could be many days older.
Deaths per capita
Cases by county
Cases per capita by county