Health Officials Say Testing Available for Nursing Homes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning County Public Health commissioner Ryan Tekac says recent reports that long-term facilities are facing shortages in COVID-19 tests and personal protective gear locally is inaccurate.

“Over the weekend, we were reading some articles discussing long-term facilities were having some trouble with testing, that’s not the case at our entity,” he says, noting that the Ohio Department of Health has provided over 700 testing kits to the local health department.

“We’ve reached out to all our long-term care facilities to make those test kits available if they need them,” he says. 

Tekac points out some long-term care facilities could be conducting testing through other laboratories. 

“But that capability, here in Mahoning County, to have their employees tested as well as patients is here. Some have taken some of those test kits from our health department and we will continue to work with them,” he says.

Tekac was responding to a press release issued by the owners and operators of Briarfield, Community Skilled Health Care Center, Heritage Manor, Ohio Living Lake Vista, Shepherd of the Valley and Windsor House, pleading for testing kits and personal protective equipment.

According to the statement, facilities have become hotspots for the spread of the virus, but are not being allocated tests or personal protective equipment to properly protect residents and staff.

The Business Journal is awaiting a response from a representative from the advocacy group. The advocacy group was formed by a group of nursing home operators in 2011 to address issues facing senior-care center residents in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The group made the plea after the Ohio Department of Health reported April 23 that 1,199 senior-care center residents and 477 staff statewide have tested positive for COVID-19. In Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, 130 residents and 72 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at 21 long-time care centers. 

A list of all senior-care sites that have staff or residents who have tested positive is available on Ohio’s coronavirus dashboard here.

Because more testing is available, Tekac says a potential increase in cases will be seen. On Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced partnerships with two companies – Roe Dental and Thermo Fisher Scientific – to produce the swabs and reagent needed to conduct the tests. By Wednesday, the state will be able to test 7,200 people daily, a figure that will increase to 22,000 by May 27.

Local health departments are awaiting word from the state on how to proceed with the need to ramp up contact tracing and how to enforce complaints that may occur as some Ohio businesses begin to reopen starting Friday.

He also says local officials are looking into the discrepancy in the number of hospitalizations being reported from Mahoning County and state figures. Ohio reports the number of hospitalizations for Mahoning County are 234, while local reports are 220.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.