Editor's Note: Current COVID-19 hospitalization data from East Alabama Medical Center was updated at 5:45 p.m. Monday.
Visitation restrictions used earlier in the pandemic are back in effect at the East Alabama Medical Center as COVID-19 hospitalizations have climbed over the past month.
As of Monday, EAMC and EAMC-Lanier have returned to "red level" guidelines to protect patients, staff and the community, allowing one visitor in some situations and no visitors in others. Red level restrictions, enforced during periods of high COVID-19 transmission, prohibit or limit visitation for all hospital patients, including those not hospitalized for COVID-19.
“We feel this is the most prudent move to make at this time to limit further transmission of COVID-19,” said John Atkinson, spokesperson for East Alabama Health in a statement. “Other hospitals in the state are also making this difficult decision right now. It’s not something we desire to do as we know it can create somewhat of a hardship for families, but it’s for the safety of our patients, our staff and ultimately for the community as we near the start of a new school year.”
EAMC is allowing visitors for adult COVID-19 patients only in end of life circumstances and during labor and delivery. Hospitalized pediatric COVID-19 patients are allowed one parent or guardian visitor. Visitation hours are from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.
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EAMC is not allowing visitors for non-COVID patients in outpatient surgery, outpatient tests and procedures and in the psychiatry unit unless required or authorized by a healthcare provider or the psychiatric care team. Full visitation information for non-COVID patients is detailed below.
- Hospitalized inpatient units: One visitor allowed between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and another visitor allowed between 5-7 p.m.
- Critical care/intensive care unit: By appointment for one hour daily
- Emergency department: One visitor allowed once patient is settled into room
- Outpatient surgery: No visitors unless special assistance is required or recommended by healthcare provider
- Tests and procedures: No visitors unless special assistance is required or recommended by healthcare provider
- Inpatient surgery: Once the patient is in the nursing unit, one visitor is allowed between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and another visitor allowed between 5-7 p.m.
- Labor and delivery: One support person allowed; may stay overnight if medical staff deems it appropriate
- Pediatrics: Two parents or guardians
- Psychiatry: No visitors unless authorized by care team
- Pastors and clergy: Allowed at patient’s request
As with other visitation levels in place during the pandemic, no visitors under the age of 16 are allowed.
Hospitalizations and vaccinations
Since the start of the month to July 26, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 at EAMC has increased from eight to 30.
“This is a definite concern and loosely mirrors what is happening across Alabama,” Atkinson said.
Alabama currently ranks last among all states in the percentage of its adult population that has been vaccinated, and approximately 28.7% of Lee County residents have been fully vaccinated according to CDC estimates, while data from the Alabama Department of Public Health puts that estimate at about 33.2%.
The majority of those hospitalized at EAMC for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, while they have seen a few “breakthrough” cases of vaccinated individuals requiring hospitalization, Atkinson said.
Brooke Bailey, infection prevention director for East Alabama Health, stressed that vaccination is still the best way to combat the virus.
“We need those who are unvaccinated to seriously consider receiving the doses as soon as possible,” Bailey said in a statement. “Please speak with your physician regarding the vaccine and then make an informed decision.”
Bailey also said people should still take other precautions like social distancing and wearing a mask.
“Everyone — including those who are vaccinated — should be wearing a mask when they are unable to socially distance themselves, especially while indoors,” Bailey said. “And we need people to seriously think about limiting their social interactions at this time as we are hearing about a lot of cases spread among family members and friends. We need to take this situation seriously so that it doesn’t spread exponentially.”
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