As coronavirus cases rise, BayCare tightens rules on visitors, testing

Only those with current symptoms will be tested, and visitors will be limited to a few exceptions.
The emergency entrance to St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, part of the BayCare Health System, which on Friday announced changes to its policies on visitors and drive-through testing.
The emergency entrance to St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, part of the BayCare Health System, which on Friday announced changes to its policies on visitors and drive-through testing. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published March 21, 2020|Updated March 21, 2020

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Amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in Florida, the BayCare Health System announced Friday it has further tightened its visitor policies and its screening procedures for people arriving for drive-through testing.

Visitors to BayCare’s 15 area hospitals and one emergency facility will be allowed “only in certain, specific instances,” the system said in a statement. Separately, it reduced hours for the drive-through coronavirus testing that began this week at several BayCare locations, and announced that tests would be given only to people currently experiencing symptoms.

WHAT’S OPEN, WHAT’S NOT: Updated information on all BayCare facilities.

Previously, the drive-through sites were testing people who had experienced symptoms in the past 14 days, and met other criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We need to be testing symptomatic individuals — those with fever, shortness of breath, a cough — and reserving our limited supplies for those cases,” BayCare’s chief medical officer, Nishant Anand, said in a statement. "Every asymptomatic patient we test means one less swab is available to those more likely to test positive.”

RELATED: Drive-thru testing starts at local BayCare centers for those who meet criteria

BayCare offered testing at seven of its urgent care locations across four counties Wednesday morning. By end of day on Thursday, 3,275 people had been screened, including 1,879 who were deemed at high risk for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Specimens from the high-risk group were taken for testing.

BayCare said the results are not expected for five to seven days. Patients will be called with their results, which will be reported to the Florida Department of Health.

Starting Saturday, the new, shortened drive-through hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Regarding visitor hours, BayCare on Friday tightened rules it had just announced on Thursday, an indicator of the pace at which organizations are adjusting to the growing pandemic.

RELATED: Tampa Bay hospitals adjust rules for visitors due to coronavirus

Instead of the previously announced visiting hours, the hospital now says it is “closing patient visitation” with few exceptions — which must be approved by the hospital administrator on duty.

The exceptions include those visiting patients in end-of-life situations; those in the labor and delivery, post-partum, pediatrics and neonatal intensive care units; those in the behavioral health unit; those in the emergency room (waiting room only); and those accompanying a patient receiving sedation for an outpatient procedure (waiting room only).

In addition, all adult visitors will be screened for COVID-19. Patients who are presumptive positive or confirmed for the disease will not be able to receive visitors.

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"We regret this is necessary, but for the protection of our patients, team members, physicians and our community, it is imperative that we limit the number of people in our facilities,” Anand said in a statement.

Here is a list of BayCare locations where the new visiting rules will be in effect starting Saturday:

Hillsborough County: St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital – North, St. Joseph’s Hospital – South, St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, South Florida Baptist Hospital

Pasco County: Morton Plant North Bay

Pinellas County: Bardmoor Emergency Center, BayCare Alliant Hospital, Mease Countryside Hospital, Mease Dunedin Hospital, Morton Plant Hospital, St. Anthony’s Hospital

Polk County: Bartow Regional Medical Center, Winter Haven Hospital, Winter Haven Women’s Hospital

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