Windsor House Says State Slow in Response to COVID Outbreaks

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Despite state Gov. Mike DeWine and state health officials saying they have made nursing homes a priority to combat coronavirus, there have been 869 deaths of long-term care residents and nearly 4,300 residents and staff members have tested positive. 

According to Melanie Amato, press secretary of the Ohio Department of Health, 22% of all long-term care centers cases end in death. She added that long-term care residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease spread by coronavirus, make up 16% of total positive cases in Ohio. As of May 12, the state health department reports 25,250 confirmed cases of infectious virus.

But that isn’t the complete story, as statistics from nursing homes and assisted living centers only have been reported in Ohio since April 15. As of May 12, Ohio has recorded 1,436 deaths since the first death was reported March 19, while there have been 869 deaths of residents in nursing homes and assisted living centers in a little more than three weeks and more than 4,300 positive cases of residents and staff. 

A spokesman for Windsor House Inc., said the slow response from the federal and state government has forsaken nursing home residents and staff.

“Over six weeks ago, Windsor House reached out to the governor’s office asking for additional testing, PPE and alternate placement for COVID positive residents. They said help was on the way. The delay in response has caused a great number of deaths in nursing homes,” said Dan Rowland, director of marketing for Windsor House.

Also increasing is national criticism over the slow response to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in senior-care facilities. According to a tally based on state health department and media reports by the Associated Press, more than 27,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, roughly a third of all deaths in the United State attributed to the virus. 

The White House on Monday strongly recommended to governors that all residents and staff at nursing homes be tested for coronavirus within the next two weeks. There are an estimated 1 million nursing home residents in the country. The recommendation comes two months after the first outbreak at a nursing home in Seattle that ultimately claimed the lives of 45 residents.

In his Monday press briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine said the recommendation most likely would not occur in Ohio because a lack of testing capacity and he’s not sure if all health officials believe that is the best protocol.

The coronavirus has a disproportionate effect on senior care centers, mostly occupied by those most susceptible to contracting COVID-19 – frail, older residents with underlying health conditions. 

DeWine appointed a task force to oversee testing in nursing homes and assisted living centers touted a comprehensive plan that has been active since mid-March, but a shortage of widespread testing in these facilities continues as a lack of needed personal protective  equipment. 

Ohio Department of Medicaid director Maureen Corcoran is leading the task force overseeing nursing homes. She said  Tuesday that Ohio has 115,000 residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities and another 100,000 workers. 

She said the state has changed prioritization for testing to be more aggressive, created new guidance to give to nursing homes suffering outbreaks and developed strike teams to assist facilities with outbreaks.

Mahoning Valley health departments only began distributing testing kits the week of April 13, and protective equipment April 17 when Emergency Operating Centers received a shipment from the state’s stockpile.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.