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Hospitals in Jacksonville make changes to visitation policies

UF begins implementing stricter COVID restrictions again as they say they have the most COVID patients its ever had.
UF begins implementing stricter COVID restrictions again as they say they have the most COVID patients its ever had.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some hospitals in Jacksonville are making changes to their visitation policies as a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are being recorded in Florida and around Jacksonville. The surge has forced some hospitals to exceed their capacity.

Ascension St. Vincent’s sent a release Aug. 5 announcing a change in the policy for its three hospitals.

  • No visitors are allowed for adult in-patients or ER patients “unless deemed necessary by the patient’s nursing staff.”
  • One designated visitor per patient will be permitted for labor and delivery patients, and a doula may also be allowed as needed.
  • For pediatric patients in the ER, up to two designated visitors per patient will be allowed, but they must be the patient’s parents or guardians.
  • Two designated visitors will be permitted for end-of-life and hospice care, and these visits will be arranged by the patient’s nursing team.
  • In outpatient imaging and procedural areas, no visitors will be allowed for adult patients who do not need assistance. If a patient needs assistance, one visitor is permitted. For pediatric patients, one designated visitor per patient is permitted, but they must be the patient’s parent or guardian.

All approved visitors will be required to complete a health screening for entry and wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose at all times, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Visitors who have a known COVID-19 exposure, have tested positive for COVID-19 or have a pending COVID-19 test cannot visit unless there are clearly documented extenuating circumstances and the patient’s care team approves the visit.

Baptist Health told News4Jax that its visitation policy had been changed last week.

Baptist Health said visitors are no longer allowed for people receiving inpatient care. There are two exceptions. Labor and delivery inpatients may have one essential visitor who can stay overnight. Pediatric inpatients are also allowed one visitor.

For outpatients, there are some added restrictions in that children younger than 16 are not allowed to visit and cannot be left alone in the lobby. Regardless of vaccination status, all visitors older than 2 must wear a face mask.

UF Health Jacksonville said on July 20 that due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Jacksonville and Florida, visitation is limited the hospital said it is allowing one visitor per patient at a time. News4Jax reached out to UF Health to ask if any changes have been made to the policy since.

UF Health Jacksonville officials said the hospital has the most COVID-19 patients it has ever had, and that’s even before the COVID-19 vaccine came out.

Debra Wells was among the patients hospitalized at UF Health Jacksonville in mid-July.

“I thought I had a cold. Come to find out, it wasn’t a cold,” Wells told a national reporter by phone. “Before I came in, I felt like I was about to die.”

Mayo Clinic told News4Jax on August 2, inpatients and outpatients may have one visitor if the patient has not tested positive for COVID-19 or is not being evaluated for COVID-19.

Mayo Clinic asks that visitors be vaccinated for COVID-19. Any patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are being evaluated for COVID-19 may not have any visitors at any time. Children under the age of 13 are not allowed in the hospital, unless they are receiving care.

Memorial Hospital told News4Jax on July 20 patients allowed one visitor at a time. News4Jax reached out to ask if any changes have been made to the policy since Florida recorded a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

According to health experts, the majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients aren’t vaccinated.

Ganeene Starling, 43, of Lake Butler, was hospitalized at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville -- where she said it was a close call.

“I was told that I probably would die. My husband was called at like 3 o’clock in the morning, saying I probably would not live through the night,” Starling said.

Starling said that she did not get the vaccine.

“Now, looking back, I wish to God I would had,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do about it now.”

About the Author:

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.