DeWine Deploys Team to Test for Virus in Nursing Homes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine says the National Guard will assist a response team to begin testing in nursing homes throughout the state where 63% of all deaths have occurred.

DeWine announced the formation of 10 to 14 Congregate Care Unified Response Teams that will consist of the National Guard, local health departments and local and state Medicaid offices to begin testing this week. DeWine’s goal is to have all staff members tested in Ohio’s 960 senior care centers. Of those 960 facilities, 200 have had a history of COVID-19, the disease spread by coronavirus. 

“A large number of deaths have occurred among nursing home patients, some of our most vulnerable by age and medical conditions,” DeWine said. “I challenged my team to work with the National Guard, local health departments and hospitals. My direction is to go save lives, deploy our resources and go do it,” DeWine said.

Kristofer Wilster, director of environmental services for Trumbull County Combined Health District says said the department has not been contacted by the Ohio Department of Health about testing deployment plans to nursing homes. Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac also said no official notification has been given to his department about nursing home testing or the new deployment strategy for nursing homes.

DeWine’s plan will have two paths, which includes testing of all staff. Testing of residents will be based on a clinically-driven strategy in which local clinicians will perform assessments of those who have likely been exposed to COVID-19. This plan differs from a prior tiered plan for testing where a resident had to display symptoms of the virus before a test was administered.

He said by testing residents who are clinically assessed, senior care centers can quickly isolate patients to contain the spread in facilities. He also announced testing of all staff members in eight Developed Disability centers. 

“This will be an ongoing process. I’m not sure how many homes will be done every week, but we will give a report each week. It will certainly be a number of weeks,” he said.

DeWine’s plan was partly based on a recommendation made two weeks ago by the White House Coronavirus Task Force that testing should be done in all nursing homes. 

“Nursing facilities have been aggressive regarding testing and managing COVID-19 outbreaks on their own, but this effort will provide them with additional resources,” DeWine said.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.