Ohio emergency orders, nursing home restrictions end

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Gov. Mike DeWine canceled Ohio’s declared state of emergency on Thursday — a measure that had been in place since March 2020 — as one of the final steps to end state-mandated COVID restrictions.

Most of the state’s health orders such as capacity restrictions, mask mandates and other infection control measures were lifted June 2.

“This is kind of the last thing to be dealt with,” DeWine said Thursday morning, when announcing the changes.

The lifting of the emergency order doesn’t affect federal pandemic programs like extra SNAP benefits.

Beverly Laubert, Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman, who advocates the rights of residents, said while many visiting rules already were lifted, scheduling has been difficult at some homes.

Some had restrictions that limited visits during business hours or capped visitors to a couple at a time. Laubert said the restrictions were hard on families, and some facilities had a hard time finding enough staff to meet the requirement that visitors be escorted.

“For families and residents, the separation has just been excruciating,” Laubert said.

Laubert said families who face challenges visiting their loved ones are encouraged to call the ombudsman’s office at 1-800-282-1206.

She also said her office is concerned that families are going to be resigned to accepting that their loved one might have declined in wellbeing over the pandemic. But she encouraged families to advocate for help for their loved one, like therapy to help rebuild lost mobility from being in a wheelchair too much the past year.

“People might need to be rehabilitated from the effects of that isolation and the inability to get out and about in the hallways and talk with other residents,” Laubert said. “We want families to expect excellent care and if they have any questions they should call us.”

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decrease in Ohio, but the disease is still taking a toll.

“We continue to lose people who are dying every single day in Ohio due to COVID,” DeWine said, noting that people who are unvaccinated are still high-risk.

DeWine estimated Ohio is losing about 10 people a day due to the virus. The Ohio Department of Health updates death data twice a week. Numbers can fluctuate because other states do not regularly report death certificates to ODH.

More than 57% of Ohioans 18 and older and 54.76% of residents 12 and older have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

The state of emergency was first declared March 9, 2020, after three Ohioans tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Since the state of emergency was declared there have been more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases in Ohio, more than 60,000 people hospitalized and more than 20,000 people have died.

The end of the state of emergency comes not only as cases and hospitalizations are trending down, but as the Ohio General Assembly is gearing up with newfound powers to override the governor’s emergency orders.

Senate Bill 22 was passed in March and will be effective starting June 23, giving the legislature more power to limit emergency health orders.