Administrator Kendra German of the Riverview Health Care Campus in Oak Harbor reported she was delighted to open the facility’s doors again last week to to residents’ visitors.
“It is important to note that there will still be precautions put in place, and these visits must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance,” said German. “We do believe at some point these precautions will also be relaxed, but for now we ask these guidelines to be followed.”
The new guidelines from the Centers off Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal regulatory body, are a reaction to the now-widespread Covid-19 vaccinations at Skilled Nursing Facilities, said German.
There are some restrictions if less than 70% a facility’s residents are vaccinated, said German, pointing out that Riverview’s vaccinations are at 87%. The Ottawa Country Department of Health is trying to boost that percentage, as well. Outbreaks are also considered, but only if they affect more than one unit of the facility.
German said visitations will be between 8:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., and for one hour at a time in designated ares. Two visitors per day will be allowed, and pets are permitted if on a leash or in a cage. Children will be allowed to visit.
Families of residents can call between 5 a.m.-7 p.m. to the front desk at 419-898-2851 (Ext. 4000). Families of assisted living residents should call the Hartford on the River charge nurse at 419-898-2851 (Ext. 4005).
For safety, the Riverview staff will continue to be tested twice a week for Covid-19. Residents will resume meals in the Ottawa Dining Room on Harvest Glen, as well as activities for residents. The new guidance for nursing homes represents another milestone in the path to getting back to normal, said Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, a trade association that represents Ohio nursing homes.
“We’re encouraged by it,” he said.
CMS still recommends facilities, residents and their families follow Covid-19 infection control precautions and conduct outdoor visitations whenever possible, since they are still the safest way to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
However, the new guidance allows reasonable indoor visits for all residents, vaccinated or not, except for in certain situations. Under the guidelines, residents who cannot have indoor visits in these scenarios are:
- Unvaccinated residents, if the Covid-19 positive rate in their county is greater than 10% and fewer than 70% of residents in their facility have been vaccinated.
- Unvaccinated or vaccinated residents who have a confirmed case of Covid-19, until they have met the criteria to stop transmission-based precautions.
- Unvaccinated or vaccinated residents who are in quarantine, until they have met the criteria to be released from quarantines.
Residents who have been fully vaccinated can also hug or touch a visitor as long as they are wearing a mask and perform hand hygiene.
Facilities are now typically seeing only one or two cases pop up instead of big outbreaks, Van Runkle said.
“It’s less restrictive because it’s saying, ‘OK, we’re going to look more at how widespread the outbreak is rather than just if there is one or not,’” Van Runkle said.
Van Runkle said it might take a little time for Ohio nursing homes to adjust their visitation policies, but he said he expected those adjustments to happen quickly.
Ohio nursing home operators are used to following a lot of rules, he said. For now, they’re trying to figure out what is expected of them going forward.
“They’re trying to get their arms around what the changes are and what they need to do,” Van Runkle said.