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Despite Being Allowed, Many Nursing Homes May Not Permit Outdoor Visits

Summit County Council president Jeff Wilhite says many nursing facilities have a need for more staff.
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Summit County Council president Jeff Wilhite says many nursing facilities have a need for more staff.

No one has been more acutely affected by the pandemic than people who live in nursing homes and their families.

The state banned visitors four months ago as nursing home deaths spiked.

Today, outdoor visits are supposed to resume. But many facilities have told visitors it’s still not safe.

“One of them had visiting schedules already established, and they were canceled," says Paula Mueller who works with families and people in nursing care through her Cleveland area nonprofit, Elderly Advocates.

She says families are losing patience with not being able to see their loved ones. “We just feel like when is going to be the right time? We don't know that that may not be for many months or maybe even a year. So we really feel like they need to figure out something that works all the time," Mueller said.

She's asked the state to include advocates like herself and families on a committee to come up with a plan for nursing home visits but so far has received no response.

“People are dying, people are not seeing their families, and we need to work to resolve these issues," she said.  Some frustrated families have considered protesting, but Mueller says COVID-19 makes that risky. She says an email campaign may be her next step.

Part of the safety standards required for a skilled nursing facility to have visits is a state order requiring testing of all staff by the Ohio National Guard. Not all facilities will have the testing done by today, and results could take another week or two.  

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A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.