Hospitals ramp up visitor guidelines as COVID-19 cases soar

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is climbing — leading hospitals and other companies to reinforce their mask mandates.

“Today, we have 122 today in all of our hospitals combined,” said Dr. Paul Calkins, Associate Chief Medical Executive at IU Health. “7 days ago it was 78 and 7 days before that it was 70.”

The health system is reinforcing its mask mandate — which requires a face mask be worn at all times at all IU Health facilities.

“Our masking guidelines now are pretty similar to what they were back in the COVID surges,” Dr. Calkins said.

He says case numbers are growing faster than they were in November.

“If we get back to truly epic numbers of COVID-19 cases, we’ll probably start seeing some health measure enacted,” Dr. Calkins said.

“It’s hard making these decisions because people really don’t want to go back,” said Claire Roembke, Manager of Infection Prevention for Franciscan Health.

While masks have always been required for unvaccinated individuals inside Franciscan Health facilities, all individuals could soon be required to wear a face covering regardless of their vaccination status.  

“I think we will see that change in the next 24 hours or so,” Roembke said.

Eskenazi Health is requiring masks be worn at all times at all facilities.

“We’re talking about layers of protection and each layer makes people safer,” said Dr. Amy Beth Kressel, Medical Director Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship with Eskenazi Health.

Experts say the growing number of cases could put more restrictions in place.

“We’ve opened things up with visitation, but we worry we might have to change or make a concession with,” Roembke said.

Experts say the best way to prevent the spread of covid-19 is vaccination– something the state’s health commissioner supports being a requirement for hospital staff.

“We support health care facilities that are mandating vaccines for their employees because by nature they’re dealing with our most at risk population,” said Dr. Kristina Box.

Experts worry the next wave of COVID has already begun and with flu season around the corner, we could start to see numbers continue climbing.

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