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BayCare tightens visitation policy, pauses some elective procedures in latest COVID-19 approach

As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise again, the hospital group will temporarily stop elective surgeries that require an overnight stay in the hospital.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — As Florida reports more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last week and as hospitalizations continue to rise across the state, beginning Tuesday, Aug. 3, BayCare Health System will tighten its temporary visitation rules at its 14 acute care hospitals to protect patients, team members, physicians, and the public.

BayCare is also pausing all elective procedures at its six hospitals in Hillsborough County to ensure capacity for the community’s acute health care needs.

The hospitals include St. Joseph’s, St. Joseph’s Children’s and St. Joseph’s Women’s in Tampa, St. Joseph’s North in Lutz, St. Joseph’s South in Riverview and South Florida Baptist in Plant City. 

"No one takes any pleasure in having to limit visits from patients' loved ones or telling someone they will need to wait for their procedure," BayCare Chief Operating Officer Glenn Waters said. "But our first priority has to be to keep our facilities as safe as possible for all our patients and caregivers so patients can recover and return home as soon as possible."

Starting Tuesday, patients in BayCare Health System will be allowed one adult visitor per day during the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. All visitors must wear masks, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, and must limit their movements in the hospitals to travel to and from the patient’s room, BayCare Health Systems said in an updated visitation policy. Previously, temporary visitation rules had allowed patients to have multiple adult visitors a day, but only one at a time. 

Some areas of BayCare hospitals, such as labor and delivery, Moms and newborns, pediatrics and NICU, continue to have extended guidelines.

Visitation remains closed for COVID-19 positive, COVID-19 rule-out and Behavioral Health patients.

Emergency room patients may have one visitor wait with them, as socially distancing capacity allows. But if emergency waiting rooms become too crowded, visitors will be asked to wait in their vehicle until their patient is placed in a treatment room. 

In addition, exceptions to the visitation policy may also be made to provide reasonable accommodation to patients with disabilities or special needs and to comply with applicable laws.  

“Our priority is always patient safety and being sure we are available to serve our communities’ acute health needs,” Glenn Waters, BayCare’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “This move helps us to continue to have capacity to serve those needs.”

The hospital group says it began contacting patients impacted by the change Wednesday. 

"BayCare facilities, like elsewhere in the state, have seen a significant increase in COVID-19 patients in the past month as the Delta variant has taken hold in the state," the release said in part. "In the past three weeks, COVID patients in BayCare hospitals have increased more than three-fold."

RELATED: AdventHealth Wesley Chapel hospital suspends some non-urgent elective surgeries

RELATED: Florida reports more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in weekly report

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