VA tightens visitation policy amid omicron surge

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Healthcare System announced Thursday that it is tightening its visitation policies amid the omicron variant surge

“The recent arrival of the omicron COVID-19 variant has resulted in a surge of positive transmission cases across the state of Florida,” David Isaacks, the health system’s executive director, said in a statement. “As an organization where safety is ingrained in our culture and the foundation of everything that we do, we are implementing additional safety measure to protect the wellbeing of our veterans, visitors, and North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System staff.”

Isaacks said the following visitation policies are effective immediately: 

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  • COVID/isolation patients: Visitation restricted.
  • Acute/Critical Care visitation for non-COVID patients: Visitation restricted.
  • Community Living Center (CLC): No visitors are permitted.
  • No visitors under 12, except for breastfeeding babies and children receiving family therapy. 

Isaacks said the system may grant certain exceptions for end of life situations on a case-by-case basis, in coordination with the medical team. All visitors must comply with a universal masking policy and go through COVID-19 screening upon entry. 

For those visiting a facility for an outpatient appointment, the VA will continue to limit guests to one essential caregiver or support person to physically assist those who need it.

The VA health system is currently only providing COVID-19 testing by appointment. The Alachua County Health Department is also offering free COVID tests by appointment only (352-334-8810).

The VA system encouraged veterans who are experiencing symptoms, including a cough, runny/stuffy nose, fatigue, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, fever or sneezing to call the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center (877-741-3400) before visiting a hospital or clinic.

“Our clinicians are available 24/7 to address your concerns, schedule a virtual appointment with a licensed health care professional in the comfort of your home or wherever you may be, or assist if you in getting tested for COVID-19,” Isaacks said. “We appreciate your flexibility and will provide additional updates to our policies as they become available.” 

Last week the positivity rate in Alachua County doubled as local case numbers spiked. On Wednesday the United States set a single-day record with almost 500,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, although so far hospitalizations have remained comparatively low.

On Thursday Johnson & Johnson released preliminary results from a study showing a booster shot of its vaccine was 85 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations in infected persons. 

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