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Nursing Homes Still Struggling with Vaccine, Visitation

COVID-19 continues to surge in Ohio's nursing homes as some facilities begin administering the vaccine. A record of 287 nursing home residents with the coronavirus died during the week ending Tuesday, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
COVID-19 continues to surge in Ohio's nursing homes as some facilities begin administering the vaccine. A record of 287 nursing home residents with the coronavirus died during the week ending Tuesday, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Ohio have been in nursing homes. The nursing home death toll jumped by nearly 1,300 in the last week, as the Ohio Department of Health added in 4,000 unaccounted-for deaths to the state’s running total.

And many workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities who were moved to the front of the vaccine line are still rejecting their place in it.

About half of nursing home staffers are still turning down the vaccine, according to Pete Van Runkle with the , which represents those facilities. But that’s a slight improvement over earlier rejection rates. While Gov. Mike DeWine says he won’t mandate vaccines, Van Runkle says some facilities are — but not all—for a reason.

“Obviously, staffing is critically needed, and folks are a little bit hesitant, hesitant to put any more barriers in the way of folks coming to work for us,” Van Runkle said.

But he says nearly all residents have been vaccinated, and visitation is allowed in 67 counties that are no longer red on the federal COVID map. Van Runkle says Personal Protective Equipment, masks and social distancing are still required. And he says compassionate care visits are always allowed—not just at the end of life—and some facilities are encouraging them to help residents deal with isolation.

Van Runkle says so-called compassionate care visits are allowed, and facilities are being urged to reach out to families to tell them they can see their loved ones, not just in their last moments.

“You need to make full use of compassionate care because not only is it important in those kind of situations like an end-of-life situation, but people suffer a decline from social isolation,” he said.

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