ODH director amends orders

Hugging now permitted in nursing homes

The Times-Gazette

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud has signed four orders that amend rules for state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

McCloud’s orders include: An order to permit access to Ohio’s nursing homes, with exceptions; an order to permit access to Ohio’s residential care facilities, with exceptions; an order for the testing of the residents and staff of all residential care facilities; and an order for the testing of the residents and staff of all nursing homes.

General visitation requirements for nursing homes and assisted living facilities remain the same, including the requirement that visitors schedule appointments in advance, are screened at the door, and wear masks. Changes to the orders include:

* Ohio is requiring that visitation be permitted whenever safety protocols can be met. Previously, visitation was permitted, not required.

* Vaccinated residents may have physical touch with their visitor while wearing a mask. Previously, touch was discouraged.

* Visits may occur in a resident’s private room, as opposed to the previous requirement of a separate visitation area.

* Thirty minutes should serve as the minimum amount of time for a visit. Previously, 30 minutes was the maximum time to visit.

* The order also expands the circumstances in which compassionate care visits should be granted.

In addition, the order updates nursing home and assisted living testing requirements to require the facilities to test vaccinated staff once per week and unvaccinated staff twice per week. The previous order made no distinction between vaccinated or unvaccinated staff.

DeWine also on Tuesday vetoed a GOP-backed bill that would limit Ohio governors’ ability to issue orders during a public health emergency, a move promising a showdown with members of his party who have vowed to override him.

DeWine made good on his earlier promise to veto the latest iteration of the proposal, marking the second time in four months the longtime officeholder has shut down attempts by his fellow Republicans to limit his powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive action came one day after DeWine sent a letter to Rep. Scott Wiggam, of Wooster, pleading with him and majority Republicans to reach a compromise on the proposal.

The bill “jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan,” DeWine said in Tuesday’s veto message. He added that the legislation “strikes at the heart of local health departments’ ability to move quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face.”

The Senate bill in question would allow state lawmakers to rescind public health orders issued by the governor or the Ohio Department of Health as soon as they take effect, as well as prevent the governor from reintroducing similar orders for at least 60 days. The bill would also limit state of emergency orders to a period of 90 days but allow lawmakers to extend them in 60-day increments indefinitely.

A Republican override vote could come as soon as Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Hugging now permitted in nursing homes

The Times-Gazette