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03/16/2020

Today's COVID-19 Report: Restaurant Ban Means Stop All Congregate Dining

Today's COVID-19 Report:

Restaurant Ban Means Stop All Congregate Dining

Here are the latest need-to-know updates from the weekend as of Monday morning, March 16 regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor DeWine Holds Press Conference Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, Governor DeWine held a press conference to make new major announcements. The governor again referenced the difference in responses between St. Louis and Philadelphia in the 1918 flu epidemic, noting that St. Louis implemented social distancing beginning two days after the first case and experienced far fewer deaths as a result.

Bars and Restaurants to Close

DeWine stated that Director Acton will sign an order requiring all restaurants and bars to close due to concerns over COVID-19. With St. Patrick's Day coming on Tuesday and bars and restaurants serving as locations where individuals congregate in close proximity, DeWine stated that these difficult steps must be taken to protect Ohioans and keep the healthcare system from becoming overloaded. The order was signed last night and went into effect at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 15. 

Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted noted that carryout and delivery are still available options, and DeWine recognized that this will have a considerable impact on small businesses in Ohio. The Governor expressed his sadness over having to issue such an order. 

Changes to Unemployment Compensation Policies

The Governor also signed an order related to unemployment compensation which will make several changes to enable workers who do not have paid leave benefits to access unemployment benefits during this period of emergency. The current state policy will be broadened, noting that individuals who are quarantined or unable to work due to the new mandated closures will not be forced to seek other work in order to access benefits. Ohio currently has a one-week waiting period, and this delay will be waived for eligible workers to receive unemployment. Husted also announced disaster relief small business loans, to help small business owners mitigate losses incurred as a result of the pandemic.

“This is our first step in trying to account for disruptions in business,” noted Husted. 

Congregate Dining Ban extends to Assisted Living, Independent Living

Per Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS) directives, congregate dining in nursing homes is prohibited. LeadingAge Ohio feels it is important to share that congregate dining in assisted living, independent living, and all other long-term care settings should also stop, per the Governor's directive yesterday and direction from public health officials.  

With in-person dining at restaurants banned in the state, older adults in these care settings should also follow this directive as they are most at risk for complications from the disease.

Avoiding Healthcare System Overload

DeWine reinforced that the danger is not only to those individuals who will become sickened by COVID-19, but to ensure the healthcare system remains able to serve people with other healthcare needs, including stroke, heart attack and other emergent needs. 

Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton noted that there are now 37 cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, with over 350 other cases under investigation. Dr. Acton shared that accurate information is now increasingly difficult, because information is pouring in so rapidly. 

She advised that each Ohioan should behave as if they have COVID-19, since symptoms do not show for several days. Individuals who are infected typically show symptoms 5-6 days later, in some cases require intensive care 2 to 2.5 weeks later, and death, if it occurs, typically occurring 5-6 weeks after initial infection in the most extreme cases. 

“What we have announced may seem like drastic action, and indeed it is drastic action,” said the Governor, but he noted that for experts in the field, the trajectory is “very predictable.” Acton noted that “we have broad community spread” in Ohio right now.

“This is the real thing. This is not a drill. This is the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and everything that each of us does matters,” said Acton.

Adult Day, Meal Delivery Will Stop Soon

The Governor noted that in the near future, programs dedicated to providing food to seniors will have to stop, and that they are working with social service organizations to ensure meals will be delivered to individuals served by these programs.

DeWine also noted that adult day services in Ohio would also have to stop due to safety concerns of congregating groups of older adults together. LeadingAge Ohio will follow up with all adult day members as these changes progress and are enacted.

OSHA update regarding Fit-Testing for N95 PPE

Yesterday the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released Temporary Enforcement Guidance - Healthcare Respiratory Protection Annual Fit-Testing for N95 Filtering Facepieces During the COVID-19 Outbreak.

A fit test is required for anyone wearing a respirator to protect against COVID-19.  Annual fit test can be temporarily suspended if employee has already been fit tested to that respirator. Relevant bullets from the memo include:

  • Perform initial fit tests for all health care personnel with the same model, style, and size respirator that the worker will be required to wear for protection against COVID-19 (initial fit testing is essential to determine if the respirator properly fits the worker and is capable of providing the expected level of protection);
  • Inform workers that the employer is temporarily suspending the annual fit testing of N95 filtering facepiece respirators to preserve and prioritize the supply of respirators for use in situations where they are required to be worn.

LeadingAge Ohio Priorities for the Day/Week

LeadingAge Ohio is sending a letter to the Governor this week outlining its requests for support of aging services providers, including regulatory relief and waivers, as well as funding support. Specific requests may be directed to Susan Wallace, Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs at swallace@leadingageohio.org.

LeadingAge Ohio is exploring the possibility of a program or application to connect restaurant servers who are not currently working to temporary roles in long-term services and supports that provide assistance in delivering meals to older adults. More information to come on this topic. 

LeadingAge Ohio is also in the process of rescheduling all previously planned events (committee meetings, education, etc) throughout the months of March and April. 

A Facebook group will be open shortly for members to join to share relevant ideas and guidance as we navigate COVID-19 together. 

We will continue to send frequent updates on the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19. 

Questions

Please send all questions to COVID19@leadingageohio.org.

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Our national partner, LeadingAge, is an association of 6,000 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to expanding the world of possibilities for aging. Together, we advance policies, promote practices and conduct research that support, enable and empower people to live fully as they age.