COVID-19Health CareNews & Opinion

Atrium Health Announces New Restrictions, Mask Policies Amid Rise in Respiratory Viruses

Atrium Health is implementing new restrictions on visitors and updates to its masking policy at its facilities. (Photo by SJ Objio)

Citing an increase in cases of COVID-19, flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory viruses, Atrium Health today began implementing new restrictions on visitors and updates to its masking policy at its facilities. 

As announced in a release on Wednesday, visitors 12 years old and under will not be permitted to visit patients in hospitals, behavioral health, or inpatient rehabilitation locations run by Atrium Health, the largest health system in the region. The age restriction will be lifted only under certain circumstances, such as visitation with a dying family member. 

Atrium Health is also temporarily updating its masking policy in an effort to protect patients and slow the spread of respiratory illnesses, according to the release. Masks will be required when entering a patient’s room in high-risk settings, including acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals and units, emergency departments (including freestanding locations), skilled nursing facilities, behavioral health, inpatient hospice, infusion centers, and certain cancer care areas such as outpatient bone marrow transplant clinics.

“It is essential we protect our most vulnerable patients during respiratory virus season,” stated Dr. Katie Passaretti, vice president and enterprise chief epidemiologist for Atrium Health, in the release. 

“We have seen in the past how these viruses such as COVID-19, flu and RSV can cause severe disease and even death. We recognize that visitor restrictions may be inconvenient for some, but they are temporary changes to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our patients, as well as our teammates and our community.”  

The new restrictions and policies became effective this morning at Atrium Health locations across the greater Charlotte area. 

Novant Health, the Charlotte area’s second-largest health care system, does not have any plans to implement new restrictions or policies at this time, according to a statement sent in response to an inquiry from Queen City Nerve. 

“While Novant Health does not have visitor restrictions in place at this time, we continue to monitor the spread of respiratory viruses in our facilities and communities,” the statement read. “Anyone experiencing respiratory virus symptoms is encouraged to help control the spread of the illness by not visiting patients in the hospital.”

Novant’s statement went on to recommend frequent handwashing with soap or the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; not touching eyes, nose or mouth with the hands; and getting an annual flu vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine and/or recommended boosters as ways to reduce the risk of contracting a respiratory illness. 

Atrium went on to encourage people to stay home when they are sick, maintain good respiratory  etiquette such as hand washing and covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and to stay up to date on all vaccines — including the updated COVID-19 vaccine and the new RSV vaccine — to best protect against illness heading into the holiday season. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Arexvy, the first RSV vaccine approved for use in the United States, in May. Arexvy is approved for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in individuals 60 years of age and older.

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