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Arkansas VA hospital modifies visitor policy as COVID cases trend downward

During the height of the pandemic, most hospitals made the tough decision to prevent visitors from entering any of their buildings.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As COVID-19 cases continue to trend downwards, the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is modifying its visitation policy.

Beginning Tuesday, October 12th, the visitation restrictions will be relaxed.

It's a sign of hope in this pandemic. Chris Durney, Public Affairs Officer for the hospital, is still being cautious however.

"We feel that the trends are sustaining in the lower portions that we can make our visitation a little bit better," he said.

Working in healthcare teaches you to adapt to change and, throughout the pandemic, it's something the hospital has especially dealt with. 

"The delta variant, it's gut wrenching, to have to make tough decisions again," Durney said.

During the summer surge of delta variant cases, the hospital saw up to 40 COVID-19 patients in the hospital and about 20 of those patients were in the ICU.

Now, he said there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.

"Today, about a month or two later, we're all the way down to seven people total in the hospital and no one's on ventilators," Durney said. 

The hospital will drop from a high-alert level to an elevated level.

What this means is that veterans with appointments, procedures, and other things that are unable to be done virtually can now be done in the hospital alongside one visitor.

"A little bit more clinical service. More face-to-face, but still being very, very careful about the COVID surge," Durney said. 

Patients who are suffering from serious or terminal illnesses will be able to have an extra person by their bedside.

But, he said they will be staying consistent with some of the existing policies. 

"We're still going to require masks, we're going to require social distancing," he said. 

Although the hospital is still being very careful and watching data daily, inside and out, it is a refreshing feeling as the return to normalcy draws near. 

"We know that more people will be able to come in and see their loved ones and take care of them and be with them, which of course helps in their recovery," Durney said.

He is hoping by November 1, the hospital will be able to open up the facility to pre-pandemic levels.