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Ohio Coronavirus Update: Outside visitation to begin in intermediate care facilities June 8

DeWine also announced guidelines Thursday for county fairs to move forward safely.

COLUMBUS, Ohio —

Thursday

Testing

DeWine said that on Wednesday, the Board of Pharmacy released guidance clarifying HHS rules, allowing pharmacists to order and administer tests for COVID-19.

DeWine said he is working aggressively with the Ohio Pharmacists Association and state pharmacies to make sure tests are available.

A map has been added to the coronavirus.ohio.gov website that identifies testing sites throughout the state and provides links to community health centers and information on how Ohioans can schedule a test.

Additionally, the allowable criteria for testing facilities and people doing testing has been expanded, DeWine said. Previously there had been three categories, but on Thursday, DeWine announced a fourth. Here are the four categories for hospital testing:

  1. Hospitalized patients and healthcare workers with symptoms, including nursing home employees and behavioral health workers.
  2. Those at high risk of developing complications from COVID-19 such as nursing home residents, patients 65 or older with symptoms, those with underlying conditions with symptoms
  3. Patients receiving essential procedures not requiring hospital admissions
  4. Individuals in the community who do not meet the above criteria with symptoms.

Nursing Homes

DeWine noted that Ohioans have gone on several months without being able to visit loved ones living in long-term care facilities.

On Thursday, he announced a several-stage approach to begin allowing visitations, as state leaders continue to monitor the virus.

Beginning June 8, intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities and assisted living facilities that are properly prepared can begin to allow outside visitation.

DeWine said the decision to move forward with outdoor visitation is the culmination of several things including: 

  • The impact on the quality of life a prolonged loss of connection can have on an individual.  
  • Requests from families and residents.
  • Consultation with advocates and providers

The guidelines for visitation were jointly developed by the Academy for Senior Health Sciences, LeadingAge Ohio, the Ohio Assisted Living Association, the Ohio Health Care Association and the Ohio Medical Director's Association.

Facilities have flexibility but are asked to do a number of things including: 

  • Develop a policy including taking temperatures and screening for symptoms of vistitors
  • Proper social distancing and masks
  • Setting specific hours and length of time of visits
  • Educating residents and families on COVID-19.

Each facility will be able to determine how to best utilize outdoor visitation in a way that works for them.

County Fairs

DeWine said that state leaders assembled a task force to look at how to proceed with junior fairs over the summer.

The group, he said, has come up with guidelines with how fair boards can work with local health departments to provide a safe outlet for kids to participate in a number of yearly activities.

The guidelines have been released on the ohio.coronavirus.gov website and focus on:

  • Social distancing
  • Limiting crowds
  • Ensuring the health of those involved
  • Animal care and welfare

DeWine said that decisions about county and independent fairs need to be made locally, as each event is unique. Each one faces a different financial situation and grounds are laid out differently.

He recognized that conditions may change over the summer, however all fair boards are asked to comply with current health department guidelines and guidelines that are already in place for other sectors. DeWine used food service as an example.

The Dept. of Agriculture is in the process of distributing all state funding available for our 94 county and independent fairs. 

Bureau of Worker's Compensation

DeWine announced Thursday that the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation is deferring Ohio employers' premium installments for the months of June, July, and August to help businesses keep their focus on the safety and well-being of their employees and customers. 

DeWine said this is another step the BWC is taking to relieve the financial burden of Ohio's businesses.

TechCred

In an effort to develop tech skills to fit the needs of the economy before the COVID-19 crisis, a program called "TechCred" was created to help the workforce gain the skills they needed to compete. 

However, Husted said the program was created under a 4% unemployment rate. Now, the state is seeing 16% unemployment, so some adjustments were made to help workers as they come out of the pandemic shutdowns.

In order to support the changing needs of Ohio businesses and workers during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, the following changes have been made to the TechCred program: 

  • Employers awarded in October 2019 and January 2020, who had credential programs interrupted by the crisis, may request to extend their 18-month award eligibility timeline.
  • Employees can now earn multiple credentials during each application period.

The next application period of the TechCred program will open June 1 and run through June 30, allowing another opportunity for companies to train current and/or incoming employees. 

For more information on the program, click here.

Vote by mail

When asked about the safety of a vote-by-mail election, DeWine assured Ohioans that the state has a long history of being able to complete absentee ballots by mail. He said that to his knowledge, the state has not had a problem with that. 

Husted acknowledged President Donald Trump's statements about vote-by-mail elections having the potential to be rigged, but explained that what Ohio does is a bit different than what the president was referring to.

Husted said that he believed the president was talking about was an exclusively vote by mail, which is not currently being discussed in Ohio for the general election in the fall.

He said in the past, Ohioans have been able to vote by mail, vote in-person early and vote in-person on Election Day. 

Mail-in voting has been around in Ohio for more than a decade and Husted said it is perfectly secure. He said he thinks other states send everyone a ballot, which is not done in Ohio - you have to request it and it is checked twice.

"In a COVID world, nobody has to go in-person to vote," Husted said.

Amusement parks and zoos

DeWine said that these criteria are still being worked on and an announcement should be on the way next week.

Tuesday

Testing and nursing homes

As of Tuesday, businesses such as gyms, fitness centers, motor vehicle bureaus and pools reopened.

During the daily Ohio coronavirus briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine announced two new goals pertaining to to testing and congregate living centers such as nursing homes.

One goal is to focus on hot spots and to be able to provide the appropriate testing when needed and secondly to provide local health departments the capability to accurately track exposure. 

DeWine said that a large number of Ohio deaths have occurred in nursing home patients. As a new effort and hopes to provide a solution to that problem DeWine announced the development of the Congregate Care Unified response teams.

There will be about 14 different teams with about 10 members, which include the Ohio National Guard. They will begin testing in nursing homes this week. 

The Ohio National Guard will be responsible for swabbing and advanced work will be completed by a combination of local health departments and medicaid departments. 

The goal is to test all staff at nursing homes and testing of the residents will be determined based on assessments. Nursing homes that have had or currently have a COVID-19 experience will be the first ones to get tested.

DeWine said out of the 960 nursing homes in Ohio around 200 have a COVID-19 history.  

It's unclear how many will be done in a week. 

RELATED: DeWine: Ohio National Guard teams to conduct COVID-19 testing in Ohio nursing homes

Lifestyle changes

By a physician named Jeff and his wife who is also a physician joined DeWine in the conference to speak about their experiences after they both contracted COVID-19.

Jeff who is considered a fairly healthy man advised that no matter the age, anyone is susceptible to the virus and that following state health recommendations is the best way to prevent furthering the virus. 

DeWine also made a point to say that asking Ohioans to wear a mask is not a political issue it's simply about protecting each other. 

Timeline for the state to reopen

DeWine admitted though a feeling of comfort is not what he feels as the state reopens businesses to help the economy, as a rise in positive tests for COVID-19 is expected, he said slowly reopening the state was the right thing to do.

Positive testing is expected due to the increase of testing overall in addition to more Ohioans socializing due to businesses reopening.

DeWine said he and his team will continue to watch the numbers as a way to determine reopening of other businesses such as casinos and racinos. 

RELATED: Gov. DeWine says he is concerned about kids' well being

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