Despite state COVID restrictions being lifted, many Mass. hospitals are keeping visitation policies in place for now

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Massachusetts lifted COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend, but hospital visitation policies are staying largely in place at most health care facilities across the state. On Saturday, the Baker administration lifted all remaining pandemic-era restrictions and capacity limits as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to plummet to new lows, with more […]

Massachusetts lifted COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend, but hospital visitation policies are staying largely in place at most health care facilities across the state.

On Saturday, the Baker administration lifted all remaining pandemic-era restrictions and capacity limits as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to plummet to new lows, with more than half of the state now fully vaccinated.

At UMass Memorial Health, there are some changes that will take effect. Patients who are awaiting a COVID-19 test result or under surveillance for suspected infection, or who previously tested positive, may still not have visitors moving forward, according to the latest policy. But end-of-life patients who are COVID-positive may have up to two visitors at 30-minute intervals while following hospital safety protocols, officials said.

Non-COVID end-of-life patients can have up to two visitors at a time at the bedside, with a maximum of 8 visitors per day, at UMass facilities. All other patients are permitted two visitors per day during visiting hours, with one visitor allowed at a time.

Laboring patients presenting for delivery, or concern for delivery, may now have two support persons throughout labor and delivery at UMass facilities, officials say. Antepartum patients, in addition to the designated support person, are permitted to have single visitor accompany them. Visitors can be present during usual visiting hours, and can rotate to a maximum of eight per day, officials said.

After delivery, one designated support person can stay with the patient during the hospitalization, and one additional visitor is permitted during visiting hours, UMass officials said.

At St. Vincent Hospital, policies have not been updated since April 7. Inpatients are allowed one visitor per day, but patients who are COVID-positive, or under investigation for COVID, are not allowed visitors. Labor and delivery patients may have one designated support person accompanying them during their stay, and patients in the emergency department may have one visitor if the patient is in a private room, according to hospital rules.

Outpatients at St. Vincent are currently not allowed visitors, except in end-of-life situations, or patients under the age of 18 or who need a support person for “cognitive or physical reasons.”

Officials at Massachusetts General Hospital haven’t updated visitation policy since May 4. Inpatients are only allowed one visitor 18 years or older from 1 to 8 p.m. at Mass General facilities.

“At this time, visitors are not permitted to visit patients on Enhanced Respiratory Isolation, or permitted to visit other areas, including the Emergency Department, ambulatory locations, and procedural locations,” Mass General’s website reads.

For outpatient labor and delivery patients, visitors are still not permitted, but birth partners can accompany pregnant patients to obstetric ultrasounds and other prenatal visits, at most sites.

On Wednesday, Baystate Health announced changes to its policy, stating that all outpatient services throughout the health system will now allow for one accompanying visitor. Hospital officials say the changes are a result of the decrease in cases and the increase in vaccinations.

“That means a support person may now accompany pregnant patients to their ultrasound appointment to learn about their baby together,” said Nancy Rines, director of women’s services and Baystate Children’s Hospital.

The Department of Public Health also on Saturday issued a public health order replacing the state’s existing mask guidance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. As part of that order, DPH will issue a public health advisory urging all unvaccinated residents to wear face coverings “in most indoor settings.”

That public health order will also mandate the use of face coverings by everyone, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, in “a small number of specific places.” Masks are still required when on public and private transportation, including on the MBTA, Commuter Rail, transportation hubs, buses, ferries, airplanes, rideshares, taxies and in livery vehicles.

Masks will also be required inside K-12 public schools, child care programs, health care facilities and provider officers, like hospitals, nursing homes, rest homes, emergency medical services, physician offices, urgent care settings, community health settings, behavior health clinics, vaccination programs and the Bureau of Substance and Addiction Services.

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