LOWVILLE — As COVID-19 patient numbers continue to diminish, the Lewis County Health System will begin allowing visitors for inpatients Monday.

“We understand having the support of a loved one helps in the healing process,” a news release announcing the policy shift stated. “The guidelines ... are designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safe environment for patients, families, visitors, and health care workers, while permitting expanded, but still limited, visitation.”

Inpatients are the latest to benefit from an expansion of visitation allowances as COVID-positive patient and staff numbers remain low at both the hospital, the residential facility and the county as a whole.

As of Friday, there were only two COVID-positive patients in the county, according to the county’s daily COVID-19 update.

Visiting hours for inpatients will be from 3 to 7 p.m. and each patient can have one visitor, who is at least 18 years old, daily. To visit inpatients, people must enter the hospital through the hospital Emergency Department entrance.

Patients having elective surgeries can also have one person with them for support under the health system’s latest rules. Although they can’t stay with patients during procedures, a visitor can rejoin the patient for the discharge process.

As has been the case throughout pandemic limitations, maternity patients can have one person with them for the duration of their stay.

Emergency Department patients can be accompanied by one person, and people are not allowed to remain in the waiting room. If the accompanying person decides to leave the emergency room, they won’t be allowed back in, the release stated.

While each area of the health system has distinct rules for visitors, some rules apply to everyone: all visitors will be screened for COVID symptoms; everyone, whether vaccinated or not, is required to wear masks and any other personal protective equipment required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state Department of Health guidelines Refusal to wear a mask or other PPE will result in being asked to leave the facility; and visitors must stay in the room of the patient they are visiting unless asked to step out of the room by hospital staff for treatment or care purposes.

Although nursing home residents at the health system’s facility have been COVID-free for a number of days, there is still one staff member testing positive, according to the daily COVID statistics provided by the health system.

The comprehensive visitation guidelines posted on the health system’s website indicate the earliest possible date visitation can continue under the latest state Department of Health rules for nursing home visitation issued on Feb. 22 is March 26. The last COVID positive patient was reported via the state system was on March 11.

Once visits are allowed, the number of visitors in the facility must stay below 20% of the number of residents that day and if the rate of COVID cases increases in the county to more than 10% of the population, in-person visits will stop in the nursing home.

Until general visitation can resume, “compassion care visits,” which are not related to the county positivity rate, can be organized.

A number of nursing home residents may be eligible for compassion care visits: those who are struggling to adjust to the facility; grieving the death of someone close to them; used to help or cueing while eating and drinking and are losing weight or getting dehydrated without the support; showing symptoms of distress like crying more, falling more or a talkative person staying quiet; residents with birthdays or anniversaries; and religious or spiritual visits.

“Window visits” were resumed on March 1 at the facility and end-of-life visits have continued throughout the pandemic.

COVID-positive patients in the hospital and nursing home are not allowed visitors except for “end-of-life visits.”

For details on visit eligibility and rules, the complete guidelines can be found at www.lcgh.net/coronavirus.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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