COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Indoor visits with residents of Ohio’s nursing homes will be allowed once again as cold weather approaches, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, lifting a ban on instituted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor said at his twice-weekly coronavirus briefing that details will come within a week and that in the meantime the state is asking long-term care facilities to examine their air filtration and ventilation systems in preparation.
DeWine also said it’s possible the state could institute real-time COVID-19 testing of visitors before they enter a nursing home, although the ability to offer that isn’t available yet.
“Residents have needs, families have needs,” DeWine said. “We also want to keep them safe and do what we can to reduce the chances of COVID coming into the nursing homes.”
The state has allowed outdoor visits since late July after concerns grew about residents with memory issues such as those that come with Alzheimer’s disease declining because of a lack of interaction. Permitting the practice is up to individual nursing homes, although the governor said he is concerned when he hears reports that homes still don’t allow the visitations.
The coronavirus has hit long-term care facilities hard, with nearly 3,000 deaths reported among residents, or six of every 10 COVID-19 deaths in the state.
Also Tuesday, DeWine responded to supporters of President Donald Trump booing Lt. Gov. Jon Husted at Trump’s rally in Dayton on Monday as Husted promoted the wearing of masks. The mention of DeWine’s name at Vice President Mike Pence’s rally in Zanesville last week also drew a negative reaction.
“Booing is a First Amendment right,” DeWine said, adding that he understands not everyone will agree with the “tough decisions” he has made to slow the spread of the coronavirus. These have included a statewide mask order, including by schoolchildren, a ban on liquor sales after 10 p.m. and strict limits on spectators at fall high school sports events.
“People of goodwill have very, very different opinions about where the state should go, how we should deal with the COVID virus, even serious differences about how serious it is,” DeWine said. His decisions are all based on medical science, he said.
Husted, a Republican, said his mask-wearing request is not for his benefit, but a way for people to protect others. “It’s just a simple sign of how we should care about each other,” he said.
Also this week, college campuses around Ohio have reported more than 6,400 positive cases of the coronavirus, spread across at least 20 public and private schools and mostly involving students. Ohio State University has had more than 2,600 cases. Miami University has had more than 1,375, and the University of Dayton reported more than 1,240.
Another roughly 1,150 cases have been reported by other campuses around the state.
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.
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