Nursing home outdoor visits restart July 20 amid virus rise


COLUMBUS (AP) — Outdoor visits will be allowed again at Ohio nursing homes beginning July 20, a calculated risk that Gov. Mike DeWine said he weighed against the importance of family visits to people’s mental well-being.

The Republican governor announced the relaxed restriction Monday, even as he continued to raise warnings about spikes in reported COVID-19 cases in two southwest Ohio counties, Hamilton and Montgomery.

The rate of reported cases in Montgomery County, home to Dayton, recently has quarupled and cases reported in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, jumped from an average of 30 to 100 per day per 100,000 people, DeWine said.

The governor said Vice President Mike Pence expressed concern about the spikes on a call Monday with governors and has pledged federal help. The Ohio National Guard also is stepping up efforts at its pop-up testing sites for the virus in the area.

Total probable and confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Ohio stood at 51,046 Monday, with deaths exceeding 2,500.

DeWine pleaded with Ohioans to remain diligent in washing their hands, socially distancing and wearing masks. He directly addressed criticism that wearing masks infringes on people’s personal liberty.

“If we want to go out and live our lives, this mask is a symbol of freedom,” he said. “It’s a symbol of freedom, because if we get 75% to 80% of the people who are out in public who are wearing this mask, we are going to see these numbers get better.”