McElroy Outlines Testing Plans for Care Centers

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With adult day care centers and senior centers looking to reopen Sept. 21, the director of the Ohio Department of Aging outlined what testing will look like for those centers.

For adult day care centers, Ursel McElroy says coronavirus testing at least every other week for staff and participants will be required. This is important “due to the fluid nature” of participants and staff coming and going each day, she said, during Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.

Likewise, staff at senior centers will also be required to be tested at least once every other week. Participants will be tested on a “strategic testing model” – if an individual presents with COVID-19 symptoms, they will need to be tested, McElroy said.

If centers have the capability to test more frequently, they are encouraged to do so, she said, but the every other week minimum is required.

At nursing homes and assisted living centers, “we continue to build our capabilities to have rapid and widespread testing available,” she said.

The more than 160,000 staff and residents at nursing homes are tested if anyone in the building is symptomatic of COVID-19 and if an individual tests positive but isn’t symptomatic. Staff are also routinely tested based on the extent of virus spread in the community.

All nursing homes are subject to specific reporting requirements and must demonstrate compliance, she said. The agency helps where it can, including picking up specimens and delivering them to a lab.

“One of our strategies was to build self-sufficiency,” McElroy said. “So in many cases, the facilities have the capability to do their own specimen collection.

For the 770 assisted livings in the state, testing of their 80,000 staff and residents is conducted every other week. They are also encouraged to test more if they have the capability, she said.

In addition to the testing for all of these centers, “they also appreciate the need for infection prevention and control,” she noted. That includes cleaning and sterilization, screening individuals and maintaining logs.

“There’s a significant amount of work that goes into preparing these particular sites for people to come and go safely,” she said.

Outdoor visitation began for assisted living centers in early June and in July for nursing homes. As the state moves into autumn, “we certainly know that the weather is not on our side,” but the agency recognizes the importance of maintaining the ability to visit loved ones, McElroy said.

“It is not our plan to do anything to disrupt those connections,” she said. “In fact, we’re working really hard to be able to bolster those connections really soon.”

The agency is also working on a dashboard to increase transparency about the status of visitations at centers across the state.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.