Gov. DeWine changes visitation rules for nursing homes, assisted living facilities


COLUMBUS, Ohio — In an attempt to do even more to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Governor Mike DeWine has announced big changes for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state to only allow one person to visit a resident per day.

It's a change being welcomed by staff and residents at Ohio Living Westminster-Thurber.

Executive Director Leslie Belfance says the facility, which offers every level of care from independent living to nursing home care, rehab services and end-of-life care, has about 450 residents.

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Normally, visitation is 24-hours a day. In the last few weeks, Belfance says that was backed up to 8-5 visiting hours and guests were swiped with a thermometer and their temperatures were logged. Before Wednesday, visiting hours were changed from 9-5 and visitors were walked over to a sink to wash their hands before being allowed in.

Now, workers are taking it a step further.

"We ask that [visitors] stay only for five minutes and we ask that they stand 6 feet away," Belfance said. "So, we're taking this very seriously."

Gov. DeWine says these are measures we have to take and, if you feel sick, stay home.

"You're sick — your mother's in the nursing home," he said. "Could you maybe get through and pass it and didn't have a fever and walk in there and get by? Yeah, maybe. But, should you do it? Not if you love your mother."

"All of these pieces of furniture and countertops and common areas we go to multiple times a day are shared by hundreds of people," Tina Butler said.

Butler has lived at Ohio Living Westminster-Thurber five years. She knows some might consider her the exception and not the rule.

"Well, good," she laughed. "Perhaps I'm a role model."

She says these measures are life-savers for the elderly.

"I would say yes, because we know it's for our protection," she said.

She's even taken things a step further, personally, by cutting back her own activities and not attending her normal discussion groups.

"It's just common sense for people," she said. "Especially our age to be careful and I'm not inviting visitors to come to our apartment."

Belfance says the changes are needed, but don't get too comfortable because she says more changes are likely on the way.

"I think it will go to no visitors," she said. "Sadly, I think that's what's going to happen."

Belfance says the facility has also had a difficult time gathering necessary cleaning and disinfectant materials, due to high demand, but says they are purchased as often as possible and they are looking at other disinfectant possibilities, like sanitizing spray.