As a safety precaution due to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, WellSpan Health facilities are enacting several protocols to reduce possible spread of the virus.

“The Delta variant of COVID-19 is taking hold nationally, and we must all take decisive action now before it gains an even stronger foothold in our communities and our facilities,” Dr. Anthony Aquilina, WellSpan Health executive vice president and chief physician officer, said in an Aug. 16 press release.

All WellSpan facilities are now at “level yellow,” meaning that patients are only allowed visitation from one support person, except in some clinical exceptions. COVID-19 patients or patients under investigation for the virus generally may not have any visitors.

In addition, starting Sept. 12 WellSpan Health employees who are unvaccinated will be tested for COVID-19 weekly.

“The health and safety of our patients and employees remain our top priority,” said Aquilina. “We recognize how important visitors and support persons are in the healing process for our patients, but we must do everything that we can to reduce the spread of this disease.”

These precautions are coupled with existing ones, such as masks being required in WellSpan facilities by patients, staff, and support persons.

This comes as WellSpan’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing, from 20 patients July 19 to 107 Aug. 22. Current COVID-19 data is accessible on WellSpan’s website.

The press release noted that vaccinated people are less likely to contract the Delta variant of COVID-19 (a more contagious surge of the virus) or be hospitalized for the virus. They also are generally less infectious, according to the CDC.

“Ultimately, getting the vaccine is the most important thing you can do to prevent becoming serious ill from COVID-19,” said Aquilina. “It can also help to limit the spread of COVID-19 to your family, co-workers and those around you.”

In the press release, WellSpan Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Eugene Curley noted that 98 percent of WellSpan COVID-19 hospitalizations since June have been individuals who were not fully vaccinated.

“It’s important to recognize that while breakthrough cases can occur in those that are vaccinated, transmission rates and hospitalization rates from those individuals remain very low,” said Curley.

WellSpan also announced Aug. 18 that it is now offering third doses of vaccines to immunocompromised individuals.

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Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.