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UVa hospital eases visitor restrictions as COVID cases drop

It’s a little closer to being normal.

The University of Virginia Health system will adjust its visitation policy on Thursday to allow younger visitors, more visitors and longer visits, citing the abating surge of COVID-19 and dropping case counts.

The health system, which includes the UVa Medical Center and other inpatient and outpatient facilities, will allow visitors 12 years old and older who do not have COVID or other illnesses and allow two visitors at a patient’s bedside from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

One visitor will be allowed to stay overnight, a major change from the current visitation policy.

The health system has five levels of visitation policy. The least restrictive level is ‘open,’ in which numerous visitors are allowed from all ages to ‘closed,’ where no visitors are allowed at all.

As of Monday, the system was on ‘restricted’ visitation, which limited visitors to 18 years old and older, one visitor per patient in most departments and no public access to the common areas of the hospital.

On Thursday, the policy will change to limited, skipping one level known as ‘restricted.’ The change comes about two weeks after the health system moved its restrictions from highly restricted to restricted, allowing two visitors per patient, but only one at the bedside at a time.

“It’s a pretty drastic difference from what our policy is today. We’re still at one visitor during limited visiting hours,” said Bush Bell, administrator of Hospitality and Support Services for the medical center. “We’re pleased that we can make this change on Thursday for at least the foreseeable future.”

UVa Medical Center has seen a daily count of around 50 patients being treated or isolated for COVID in the past week, a significant decrease from the 112 reported on January 21.

Bell said declining patient numbers in the hospital’s COVID care unit and the COVID intensive care unit, combined with falling case counts across the community, led to the decision.

The health system has changed the visitation restrictions numerous times since the March 2020 onslaught of COVID-19, the levels changing with the number of cases in the community.

“We want patients to have visitors. There are lot of studies that indicated when patients have visitors they get better faster,” Bell said. “When someone comes into the hospital as a patient, we know it affects the entire family. It’s not just the patient who is being treated, it’s the family.”

Beginning Thursday, patients staying in the medical center and the UVa Transitional Care Hospital may have two designated visitors at their bedside between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and one visitor may stay at the bedside overnight.

Two designated visitors are also allowed at the Emergency Department, outpatient clinics and procedural areas, although some areas may have restrictions, including operating rooms where visitation is not permitted.

Visitors must be ages 12 or older and cannot have COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 or other contagious diseases. All visitors must be screened before entering the hospital and must always wear a mask inside UVA Medical Center facilities.

All public spaces, including the hospital lobby, cafeteria and waiting areas, will be open to members of the public.

Maternity and delivery patients may have two visitors on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week as may end-of-life patients.

No patients are allowed for those visitors being treated for COVID.

Bell said he hopes the hospital will someday be able to set its policy back to open.

“We’d probably have to have our COVID patient census drop to about zero and our COVID ICU drop to near zero and infection rates in the Blue Ridge Health District drop to way, way low,” Bell said. “It would be great, but we don’t know when that is going to happen. We hope it’s soon.”


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