As much of society is seeing the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, Ohio’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities are dealing with the brutal aftermath of the pandemic.
Even as cases are decreasing, limits on visitations to such facilities are still in place as many residents remain in isolation.
KentRidge Senior Living in Kent, Ohio, was among the first of these long-term care facilities to respond to the coronavirus pandemic as it hit the U.S. almost one year ago.
“We were very reactive,” said John McAninch, the regional director of operations at KentRidge. “We started our COVID protocols very quickly, we isolated the community very quickly.”
This early isolation period helped KentRidge keep its COVID-19 cases among residents and staff very low. KentRidge has reported seven resident cases and nine staff cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website.
The state of Ohio itself has had 81,648 cases related to long-term care facilities since the beginning of the pandemic. Nursing homes in the state have reported more cases than assisted living facilities, such as KentRidge.
McAninch says KentRidge is sticking with the ODOH guidelines for long-term care facilities.
“We have very limited access to who can enter the facility at this time,” McAninch said. “All staff and residents must wear a mask at all times.”
Current ODOH guidelines include limiting visitations to two people at a maximum time of 30 minutes, with visitations taking place outside of the resident’s room.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine believes that visitation in such facilities may open back up soon, due to declining cases and the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re seeing positivity rates across the state decrease,” DeWine said in a press conference Monday afternoon. “Soon many more nursing facilities may be able to open up to allow more visitation.”
Another element that may allow long-term care facilities to reopen soon is vaccination efforts in Ohio. Residents and staff of long-term care facilities began getting their vaccinations as part of the Phase 1A distribution process by the state of Ohio. This phase began on Dec. 14, 2020.
KentRidge finished up its third round of the vaccine last Wednesday, Feb. 17. Despite this, all COVID-19 guidelines are still in place regarding masks and limits on visitations.
“[The vaccine] technically hasn’t changed anything yet,” McAninch said. “What it is getting us to is we have started to plan our reopening process, how we want to reopen the community.”
A large majority of residents and staff at KentRidge chose to get the vaccine, and there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported at the facility since vaccinations began.
McAninch hopes the facility will return to normal soon, while still keeping some protocols from the COVID-19 era that will continue to enhance residents’ experience.
“We want to get back to normal but we also want to make sure that we continue to stay safe,” McAninch said. “Then also use the technology that we’ve started to use and [had] great success with.”
He mentioned that having virtual events, such as book clubs and trivia clubs, has brought together residents from all 26 of the Arrow Senior Living communities, the managing company of KentRidge.
McAninch also said that the pandemic opened their eyes to how they may prepare for future health crises such as COVID-19.
While the facility has plenty of PPE (personal protective equipment) in stock for now, McAninch wants KentRidge to be prepared with the amount they have in stock going forward.
“We want to make sure that we have contingency plans,” McAninch said, “and have enough supplies in stock in case a pandemic like this does happen again.”
Rachel Gross is a TV2 reporter. Contact her at email@example.com.