Local hospitals change visitor policies due to coronavirus

Hospitals in the Austin area are updating policies for patients and visitors in light of coronavirus concerns. 
That includes limiting visitors with symptoms associated with COVID-19 or who have had contact with someone who is confirmed to have the virus. 

“Patients who are at higher risk, who have other illnesses, will, unfortunately, not have the defenses to fight this. And those people can become much sicker,” said Dr. Dagoberto Balderas, a family medicine physician at Lewis Family Medicine.  

RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates

Baylor Scott & White said visitors with flu-like symptoms will be asked to postpone their visit. Those symptoms include: fever higher than 100 degrees, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and runny nose. 

St. David's Healthcare said they are asking visitors to use a limited number of entrances and all patients and visitors will be asked a series of questions suggested by the CDC to determine their risk. 
In a statement St. David's chief medical officer said in part: "…Our goal by taking these precautions is to ensure that our collective team remains healthy, safe and able to care for our community." 

Balderas said his office is asking patients those same questions.


Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 7 Austin News app. It is FREE!

Download for iOS or Android


“If they're having any respiratory symptoms, a cough, any difficulty breathing, do they have fever, and, of course, have they been exposed to either anyone they know has had the virus, have they traveled to any high risk areas,” said Balderas.  

Ascension Seton will also restrict visitors with flu-like symptoms. The hospital will not allow more than two visitors at a time or any visitors under 14 years of age unless they are cleared by the patient and doctor. 
A statement from Ascension said in part, "Per guidance from the CDC, we are restricting visitors who have returned from a country within the past 14 days that the CDC has designated as Level 3 Warning or Level 2 for Novel Coronavirus." 

Balderas said there are a few key factors that make Coronavirus more likely to spread than some other illnesses. 

“Unlike influenza, where we had been vaccinating our patients and hopefully that will protect us from becoming sick, we currently don't have vaccination for Coronavirus,” said Balderas.  

He believes it's only a matter of time before cases are confirmed in the Austin area. 

“Yes, it's inevitable. And honestly, it's probably circulating right now. No need to cause fear, just, again, continue proper hygiene precautions,” Balderas said.  

Balderas encourages people to use proper hygiene techniques like handwashing, trying not to touch your face, staying home if you feel sick and distancing yourself from others in order to prevent the spread of the disease. 

Ascension statement: 

Ascension is implementing temporary visitor restrictions, in both inpatient and outpatient settings, to minimize disease transmission, specifically the spread of viral respiratory infections including COVID-19. Our goal is to protect our associates and those we are privileged to serve by limiting possible exposure to Novel Coronavirus and directing people to the right level of care.

The following visitor restrictions are similar to the infection control precautions we put in place in our hospitals and care sites every year during flu season to protect our patients, visitors and associates.

The current visitation policy at Ascension Seton includes the following:

  • Restricting visitors who have flu-like symptoms and/or cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, runny nose/nasal congestion, or sore throat. 
  • Limiting visits to two visitors per patient at any given time. 
  • Visits from children under age 14 will be at the discretion of patients and clinicians involved in their care. 
  • Per guidance from the CDC, we are restricting visitors who have returned from a country within the past 14 days that the CDC has designated as Level 3 Warning or Level 2 for Novel Coronavirus. 

We appreciate the cooperation of our visitors, patients, associates, and providers to support our infection control efforts and help minimize the spread of respiratory infections and COVID-19.

Consider virtual care: To help prevent the spread of disease, people with questions about their symptoms may want to try ‘virtual care’. For easy access to a doctor for urgent care visits without leaving home, you can use online care from a smartphone or mobile device (laptop or tablet). Ascension Online Care offers visits with a doctor 24/7 from work, travel or home. Use code HOME for a discounted $20 visit. Download the app today at www.ascension.org/onlinecare. Available in all 50 states. No insurance required.  

St. David’s statement: 

“On Monday, March 9, in an abundance of caution, we began restricting access to our facilities to a limited number of entrances, where all patients and visitors entering our facilities are being verbally screened with a three-question survey that follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Necessary precautions are taken based on their responses to the survey questions.
Our goal by taking these precautions is to ensure that our collective team remains healthy, safe and able to care for our community.”
Ken Mitchell, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
St. David’s HealthCare

Baylor Scott & White statement: 

As there is nothing more important than the safety of our patients and colleagues, we are limiting visitors to our care facilities at this time and implementing additional precautions as needed. We are asking visitors who exhibit signs or symptoms of an influenza-like illness – which includes a fever greater of 100 degrees Fahrenheit with cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat – as well as visitors with other symptoms, such as runny nose, fatigue, chills, vomiting, or diarrhea to postpone their visits.