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May 22, 2024

Hospitals Restrict Visitors As Respiratory Viruses Surge

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Dec 21, 2023

Hospitals across North Carolina are reinstating visitor restrictions in response to a troubling rise of respiratory viruses this winter season. The sharp increase in flu, RSV, and COVID-19 cases has prompted healthcare networks like Novant Health to limit guests in order to protect patients and staff.

Novant Health Announces New Rules Starting December 20

On Monday, Novant Health announced temporary visitor restrictions that will start on Tuesday, December 20 at all of its hospitals and facilities. As outlined on their website, the new policy includes:

  • No visitors under age 18, except under special circumstances
  • No more than 2 visitors per patient at a time
  • No visitors with symptoms of respiratory illness

Novant says these precautions aim to curb the spread of flu, RSV, COVID-19, and other contagious diseases that are spiking locally and nationwide this winter.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and thank our patients and communities for their understanding,” said a Novant Health spokesperson. “Our top priority is protecting the health and safety of those who rely on us for care.”

Atrium Health Announces Similar Rules

Novant Health joins Atrium Health in updating its visitor policy in light of rising viral illnesses. As of December 14, Atrium has banned guests under age 12 across its various hospitals and clinics.

Dr. Sid Fletcher, Atrium’s Chief Clinical Officer, explained the reasoning behind the tough decision: “This is not just about COVID-19. We are seeing high volumes of viral respiratory illnesses, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), putting pressure on our emergency departments and hospitals.”

RSV Cases Reach Record Highs

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to hit the Charlotte area especially hard right now.

RSV Hospitalizations by Week, 2022-2023 Flu Season:

Week Ending Hospitalizations
10/1/2022 14
10/8/2022 16
10/15/2022 22
10/22/2022 35
10/29/2022 63
11/5/2022 137
11/12/2022 225
11/19/2022 304
11/26/2022 402
12/3/2022 511
12/10/2022 605
12/17/2022 675

(Source: North Carolina’s Respiratory Surveillance Report)

The winter virus is particularly hazardous for infants and young children. RSV cases in Mecklenburg County have exploded to their highest point in over 5 years. Hospitals are overflowing with tiny patients struggling to breathe.

“Pretty much every hospital bed on my unit has been filled with RSV kids for over two months now,” reveals Claire Kinslow, a pediatric nurse at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital.

The relentless influx of young RSV patients has depleted PPE supplies and exhausted healthcare staff. Limiting hospital visitors is necessary to ease the pressure on limited resources.

Flu Cases Also Spiking

RSV isn’t the only respiratory bug sweeping through North Carolina this season.

The CDC estimates that since October, flu-related hospitalizations nationwide are the highest observed at this point in more than a decade. North Carolina is no exception to the trend.

Week Ending Flu Hospitalizations
10/1/2022 1
10/8/2022 4
10/15/2022 15
10/22/2022 35
10/29/2022 88
11/5/2022 224
11/12/2022 512
11/19/2022 981
11/26/2022 1358
12/3/2022 1651
12/10/2022 1848
12/17/2022 2176

(Source: North Carolina’s Influenza Surveillance Report)

Health experts worry this “tripledemic” of combined viruses may overwhelm hospitals through the holidays. Visitor limits aim to open up more beds and ensure adequate staffing to care for the swell of sick patients.

What Happens Next?

It remains unclear when Novant Health, Atrium Health, and other hospital networks may lift their visitor restrictions.

For now, policies will stay in place and continue being evaluated. Hospitals urge community members to get vaccinated, wash hands frequently, and wear masks in public spaces to prevent illness.

“The community’s collaboration is vital to help us slow viral spread,” said Novant Health infectious disease specialist Dr. David Priest. He stressed that flu shots plus COVID-19 bivalent boosters provide optimal protection during this rough respiratory season.

While inconvenient, visitor restrictions are a necessary step hospitals must take to weather this influx of contagious infections. The priority is safeguarding vulnerable patients already struggling with illness amidst the viral storm.

Healthcare workers implore residents to take viruses seriously this winter. Simple health precautions plus avoiding unnecessary trips to the hospital can help substantially during this difficult period.

“We know folks want to be with loved ones, but right now these viruses are just too rampant,” said Claire Kinslow, the pediatric nurse. “Stay home if you’re sick, wear a mask around others, and get your shots. Together we’ll get through this.”

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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