Citing a sudden surge of COVID-19 cases, University of Virginia Health officials are implementing a ban on visitors at the UVa Medical Center and transitional care hospital beginning 9 p.m. Thursday.
Health officials will also restrict visitors to the emergency department, outpatient clinics and outpatient procedure areas at 7 a.m. on Jan. 3 and are also closing all public spaces to the public, including the hospital lobby, cafeteria and waiting rooms.
“The visitation policy changes are part of UVa Health’s efforts to protect the health of our patients and team members,” said spokesman Josh Barney in a statement released Thursday morning. “UVa Health also continues to encourage all community members to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots.”
Some exceptions may be made for exceptional circumstances, Barney noted. For pediatric patients, and patients with disabilities, one adult designated visitor may be with the patient 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout an inpatient admission, emergency department visit or outpatient visit or procedure.
Patients facing the end of their lives may have two designated adult visitors with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Limited exceptions for specific patients can be made if the visitor is not COVID-19 positive and does not have symptoms of COVID-19 or other contagious illness,” Barney explained. “All visitors must be screened before entering the hospital, must always wear a mask and must remain with the patient at all times.”
The restrictions, which have been in place during similar surges in the pandemic, now approaching two years old, are designed to help protect medical staff at the hospital as well as patients and other visitors.
This week has seen the number of COVID-19 cases reached record levels across the region, the state and on the UVa Grounds.
According to the UVa COVID tracker website, a combined 123 students, staff and faculty tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two days of this week.
The surge is on the heels of the Christmas holiday: On Dec. 23, 167 people were tested for COVID-19 at UVa with 18 reporting positive test results. On Tuesday, five days later, 281 people were tested with 61 people testing positive.
The seven-day average for UVa community members shows an 18.7% positive test rate. For students tested, the rate is 12.3% positive while staff and faculty tests show a seven-day average of 20.51% positive.
The rest of Central Virginia is also seeing a surge. The Blue Ridge Health District reported 371 new cases Wednesday, the highest single day total of any pandemic day so far. The district is averaging a record 160 new cases over a seven-day period compared the 74-case, seven-day average last year.
The recent surge makes December 2021 the second-worst month of the pandemic in terms of daily case counts. So far, 19 new deaths have been recorded, and 77 people have been hospitalized this month, which is one of the higher monthly totals.
Barney said UVa Health officials are imploring people yet to be vaccinated to so as soon as possible and to get vaccine booster shots as soon as they qualify.
“Booster shots have been shown to increase the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19 and the highly contagious omicron variant,” he said. “Data shows that a booster increases omicron infection protection from around 30% to between 70% and 75%. [It] makes symptoms much milder and dramatically reduces the risk of severe disease or hospitalization.”
Anyone with questions about the policy should call the hospital at (434) 924-0000 or go to online at uvahealth.com/services/covid19-visiting-restrictions.