Increased COVID-19 cases in Ohio caused by the delta variant have forced a number of changes in the past week, including new visiting rules at many local hospitals, new vaccine rules for nursing home staff, and people starting to get third doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Here’s a recap of some of the biggest pandemic updates.
Nursing home vaccine rules
The federal government plans to require that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition to continue getting paid by Medicare and Medicaid. The Biden administration announced the plan Aug. 18.
These new regulations would apply to nearly 15,000 nursing home facilities and their 1.6 million workers, which serve about 1.3 million residents.
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Nursing homes residents are an older and more medically vulnerable population that has a higher risk from COVID-19 and from breakthrough infections.
Nursing homes have to report their vaccination rates to the federal government and public records show a huge range in vaccination rates among staff at local nursing homes.
Some nursing homes have voiced concern that the mandates could lead to staffing problems, which are already a serious industry challenge.
Third COVID-19 vaccine doses are now being given out to local people who are immunocompromised and already received two doses of their the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
If seeking a third dose, keep in mind that not all COVID-19 vaccine clinics are giving them out so it’s good to check ahead of time to make sure you’re going to the right setting. You can also consult with your primary care provider to see if a third dose is recommended for you.
The third dose is recommended to be received at least 28 days following the second dose, according to the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, Inc.
Hospitals restrict visiting
Several hospital networks in the region have recently restricted their visiting policies in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.
Starting today, Premier Health is tightening visitor restrictions and the full list of visiting rules is at premierhealth.com.
All visitors at any Premier Health facility must wear a mask, including in private patient rooms.
In non-COVID patient rooms, hospitalized patients can have one support person or visitor per day. Patients in the emergency room can be accompanied by one support person or visitor at a time. Patient with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 will be permitted one visitor per day for one hour that day.
For maternity patients, two support persons, such as a partner and a doula, will be permitted per day. For maternity patients testing positive for COVID-19, only one support person will be allowed.
There’s no visiting for outpatient testing. Patients going to office visits can have one support person or visitor for the visit. If necessary, they can bring an additional caretaker to provide needed mobility, language, cognitive or other assistance.
Kettering Health changed its visiting policy starting Aug. 17. Current patients and patients coming for an emergency department visit, hospitalization, or outpatient procedure will be allowed one visitor at a time.
There are exceptions such as NICU patients may have up to two visitors per stay; patients who require additional assistance can have one additional assistance person; minors can have two visitors limited to only one parent or guardian at a time; no visitation by anyone under the age of 18; no visitation for outpatient testing or outpatient therapy; and end-of-life situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The full list of visiting rules is online at ketteringhealth.org.
Full FDA expected soon
The FDA has only granted emergency-use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but the agency is expected to soon give full approval to Pfizer.
In a national Kaiser Family Foundation poll, about half of adults who report they want to “wait and see” before getting vaccinated say they would be more likely if one received full FDA approval. However, Kaiser stated the polling responses also suggested FDA approval is a proxy for general safety concerns.
Demand for COVID-19 tests is climbing. In early July around 1 to 2% of COVID-19 tests in Ohio were coming back positive, now more than 8% on average are positive.
If seeking COVID-19 testing, physicians are urging people to avoid the ER and go to one of the designated testing sites.
CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid all have online scheduling for COVID-19 testing.
Premier Health has testing site details at premierhealth.com/coronavirus. They can provide physician-ordered tests that can be billed through insurance, or have self-pay tests that are $60 for a rapid or antigen test and $100 PCR test. Kettering Health has testing site details at ketteringhealth.org/coronavirus. Dayton Children’s has details at childrensdayton.org/covidtesting.
Associated Press contributed to this report.