Because of the rise in COVID-19 cases, the University of Virginia Medical Center will ban visitors, with limited exceptions, effective Wednesday.
The change applies to inpatient units, the Emergency Department, outpatient clinics and outpatient procedural areas, officials said in a Tuesday news release. UVa also is planning to expand its asymptomatic virus testing program to employees working on Grounds; students are set to return Feb. 1.
UVa officials have said that if those plans change, they’ll announce a decision by Jan. 15.
The visitor restriction is the UVa Medical Center’s latest move in response to the current surge of cases. Last week, officials said they were diverting patients to other hospitals to free up staff to treat COVID patients.
“These changes are being made to help protect the health of our patients and team members as COVID-19 cases have increased in the Charlottesville area and throughout Virginia,” medical center officials said in a news release.
At Sentara Martha Jefferson, non-COVID-19 patients and those giving birth may have one visitor with them, under a policy that went into effect Nov. 20. Patients facing imminent death may have two visitors. In the cancer center and emergency department, no visitors are allowed.
A Sentara spokeswoman did not respond to an email asking if the hospital was planning to change its policy.
According to UVa’s COVID tracker, there are currently 61 people hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday with five new hospitalizations.. Since December 1, 118 more people in the Blue Ridge Health District have been hospitalized.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, the medical center implemented a similar restriction, which was relaxed as conditions improved.
Pediatric patients and those with disabilities can have one adult visitor with them during an inpatient admission, emergency department visit, or outpatient visit or procedure.
All visitors must be screened before entering the hospital, must wear a mask at all times inside the medical center and must remain with the patient at all times, according to the release.
Unit managers can make some exceptions for specific patients if the visitor is not COVID-19 positive and does not have symptoms of COVID-19 or other contagious diseases, according to the release.
Exceptions could be made for patients giving birth or those at the end of their life. Patients or potential visitors should talk with medical center staff to discuss the exceptions.
Those with questions about the visiting policy should call (434) 924-0000.
Last semester, UVa developed a saliva test for COVID-19 program for students and used a random testing program as a way to detect asymptomatic cases. The saliva test takes about 10 minutes to complete, and results are available within 72 hours.
The university has now developed enough capacity to enable testing every student living on and off Grounds once a week, and is expanding the program, according to a Monday news release.
The expansion of the program is geared toward employees working on Grounds. Other employees can still receive a free COVID test through the university’s partnership with Let’s Get Checked.
“We recognize the difficulty and uncertainty this pandemic has created for members of this community, and we continue to focus on developing the tools and resources it takes for you to do your jobs safely and effectively,” university officials wrote in a community message.
UVa plans to administer the expanded employee saliva tests during the saliva testing clinics walk-in hours, but the university is planning to release a new platform for students and employees to schedule saliva testing appointments.