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Atrium Health Declares Respiratory Virus Season, Visitor Restrictions

Atrium Health Navicent, like many health systems across the nation, has seen an increase in respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, flu and RSV. Due to this increase, Atrium Health Navicent will implement seasonal temporary visitor restrictions for children age 12 and younger starting on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7 a.m.  

To reduce the possibility of spreading viruses, visitors who are age 12 and younger will not be permitted to visit patients in our hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation locations. Under certain circumstances, such as visiting a dying family member, the patient’s care team may make arrangements for visitors under 12. Throughout the year, and especially right now, visitors who do not feel well or who have a confirmed case of COVID-19, flu or RSV, or any other respiratory virus should not visit.  

Atrium Health Navicent is also temporarily updating its masking policy in high-risk settings in an effort to protect our patients and to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses. Masks will be required when entering a patient’s room in these settings, which include acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals and units, emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, inpatient hospice, infusion centers and certain cancer care areas.

“COVID-19, flu and RSV can cause severe disease and even death for our most vulnerable patients. That’s why it’s essential that we take steps to protect them during respiratory virus season,” said Atrium Health Navicent Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrice Walker. “We recognize that these visitor restrictions may be inconvenient for some, but they are necessary to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect patients, our teammates and the community.”  

Atrium Health Navicent also urges members of the community to continue taking measures that are known to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. Health officials strongly encourage people stay home when they are sick, maintain good respiratory etiquette, such as hand washing and covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and, most importantly, stay up to date on all vaccines – including the updated COVID-19 vaccine and the new RSV vaccine – to best protect against illness heading into the holiday season. 

As always, patients are asked to only visit the emergency department if they are experiencing a serious or life-threatening illness or injury. Those who need medical attention for more routine symptoms such as cough, fever, fatigue and other flulike symptoms should contact their primary care provider. Other options include urgent care centers and virtual visits.

Visitation guidelines are subject to change at any time. Visitors include those who are visiting/accompanying patients.

Guidelines are as follows:

• Visitation hours will be held 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

• General inpatient units at Atrium Health Navicent hospitals may have four (4) visitors daily. One (1) adult visitor/caregiver over the age of 18 years of age may stay with the patient from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. See special considerations for COVID-19 patient visitation.

• Intensive care units at Atrium Health Navicent hospitals may have four (4) visitors daily with two (2) visitors/caregivers at the bedside at a time. One (1) visitor may stay overnight.

• Visitors age 12 and under are not allowed to visit hospitals or inpatient rehabilitation facilities unless under special circumstances as described in the “Special Considerations” section below.

• Visitors must:

• Be screened at the front entrance of the hospital.

• Be in good health (free of respiratory illness, fever cough, etc.)

• Follow safety guidance. This includes wearing masks — if warranted — staying six feet from others and performing frequent hand washing. Visitors may choose to wear additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which will be made available upon request.

• Patients having surgery may have two (2) visitors with them until they are in their patient room, even if they arrive before 8 a.m. Patients under 18 may have two (2) parents or guardians visit any time of day.

• Patients at Atrium Health Navicent Rehabilitation Hospital may have no more than four (4) visitors at a time and visiting hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

• Patients receiving treatments for cancer are often immunocompromised and more vulnerable to infection. In this case, patients will not be allowed visitors if they are exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness or have COVID-19 or might have COVID-19 (being tested).

• Family Birth Center

• Patients in Labor and Delivery (active labor before delivery) may have four (4) visitors daily, including a support person and/or birth coach or birthing doula.

• Patients in postpartum units (after delivery) may have four visitors daily in addition to a support person. One (1) adult visitor/caregiver over the age of 18 may stay with the patient from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Overnight visitors must stay at the patient’s bedside.

• Siblings under age 18 do not count as a visitor.

• Patients in triage/OB assessment may have one (1) visitor. All visitors must be age 18 or older.

• One (1) support person may accompany a patient inside the c-section and operating suites, and in the post-anesthesia care unit/recovery area. No additional visitors are allowed.

• No visitors are allowed in the Nursery.

• Family Birth Center visitation guidelines may be adjusted as needed to meet patient care needs.

Masking

Masking is required in emergency department waiting and triage areas. Masking is also required when entering a patient’s room in locations such as the hospital, in-patient rehabilitation, skilled nursing, or inpatient hospice. Masking is also required in infusion centers and certain cancer care areas. Masking may also be required in rooms where highly infectious patients with a respiratory virus, such as COVID-19, are being cared for or any area or unit with an identified cluster of illness. Patients who are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness such as COVID-19, flu or RSV, or had a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the past 10 days, should wear a well-fitted mask that covers their nose and mouth. Visitors who are experiencing symptoms are asked to stay at home.

Patients and visitors at Atrium Health Navicent facilities may be asked to wear a mask at any time, based on the type of symptoms being experienced by a patient or circumstances specific to their patient population or practice at any given location.

Patients may also request their direct care team wear a mask if it makes them feel more comfortable.

Special Considerations:

• Special circumstances will be managed by the treating physician and nursing unit leadership.

• Patients in hospice or palliative care may have two (2) visitors at a time at the bedside and one (1) visitor overnight.

• Exceptions, as determined by the treating physician and facility leadership, may include:

• End of life circumstances

• Communication barriers

• Caregiver/decision making assistance needed

• Physical, emotional or psychiatric concerns where a caregiver is necessary

COVID-19 Patients

Patients exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness including influenza, RSV, and COVID-19 may have visitors. Visitors must wear a mask and may wear other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including a gown, gloves, and eye protection, which will be provided upon request. The visitor must stay in the patient’s room at all times with the door closed and will utilize a designated restroom based on the patient’s location. Visitors are urged to eat prior to arrival, but to remain at least six (6) feet away from the patient before removing a mask to eat. At the conclusion of the visit, visitors must exit the facility without visiting any other location.

Other Considerations:

• Overnight visitors must stay at the patient’s bedside. If a patient needs an in-room procedure that requires the visitor to leave the room, the visitor may wait in the hallway outside the patient’s room.

• Some intensive care units lack the capacity for overnight visitors. In these units, overnight visitors are at the discretion of unit leadership.

• Some visitors arrive with patients via entrances other than the main visitor entrance (ex. surgery, emergency and heart procedures). In the event a patient who entered through any entrance other than the main visitor entrance is admitted and the visitor chooses to stay overnight, the visitor must check-in at the main entrance and receive a visitor band during visiting hours (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.). If the patient is admitted after visiting hours, the visitor may stay overnight and check-in at the main entrance during the next day’s visiting hours.

This visitation policy applies to Atrium Health Navicent locations, including:

• Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital

• Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center

• Atrium Heath Navicent Baldwin

• Atrium Health Navicent Peach

• Atrium Health Navicent Rehabilitation Hospital

• Atrium Health Navicent emergency rooms, urgent care centers, clinics and diagnostics centers

All facilities may be accessed through their main lobbies and/or emergency centers. Individuals with cough, fever, shortness of breath or other flu-like symptoms are asked to refrain from visiting. Greeters at public entrances will continue to ask basic screening questions, guide those seeking treatment to the appropriate location and assist visitors as needed. Atrium Health Navicent recognizes that interacting with loved ones can be helpful to the healing process. Wi-Fi access is available, allowing patients to also participate in video chats and phone calls on cell phones or other mobile devices. The health of our patients and the community is the highest concern at Atrium Health Navicent. For the latest information about Atrium Health Navicent, including our visitation policy, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent is part of Advocate Health, which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the third-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org.

About Advocate Health

Advocate Health is the third-largest nonprofit integrated health system in the United States – created from the combination of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health. Providing care under the names Advocate Health Care in Illinois, Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, Advocate Health is a national leader in clinical innovation, health outcomes, consumer experience and value-based care, with Wake Forest University School of Medicine serving as the academic core of the enterprise. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Advocate Health serves nearly 6 million patients and is engaged in hundreds of clinical trials and research studies. It is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, pediatrics and rehabilitation, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs. Advocate Health employs nearly 155,000 team members across 68 hospitals and over 1,000 care locations and offers one of the nation’s largest graduate medical education programs with over 2,000 residents and fellows across more than 200 programs. Committed to equitable care for all, Advocate Health provides nearly $6 billion in annual community benefits.