As of Tuesday, HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls will limit visitors to two per patient per day, the hospitals announced in a news release.

They are the latest Chippewa Valley hospitals to limit visitors as COVID-19 transmission increases across Wisconsin. 

Changes to HSHS' visitor policy include:

  • Visitors under 12 are not permitted.
  • A patient's two allowed visitors must be the same two people each day; visitors may not rotate in and out with other people, the hospitals said. 
  • Patients nearing end-of-life will have special arrangements on a case-by-case basis.
  • Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cannot have visitors; the only exception is a pediatric patient and other special circumstances that will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • If the visitor had COVID-19, they may not come to the hospital until 14 days after their symptoms begin or a positive COVID-19 test; they must also be fever free for at least 24 hours with an improvement in symptoms. 

All visitors must wear a face mask covering the nose and mouth; a face shield isn't an acceptable substitute for a mask, the hospitals said. Visitors must also use hand sanitizer when they enter the hospital and a patient's room and before they leave a patient's room. They must also remain in the patient's room or in a space designated by hospital staff.

All visitors will continue to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure when they enter the hospital. If people aren't feeling well or have any of the following symptoms, they won't be allowed to visit: A fever greater than 100 degrees; chills; difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; cough; sore throat; loss of sense of taste or smell; or exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

People with concerns or questions can call the hospitals. Loved ones can call their patient's room via telephone, text or video chat with them. If people call the hospitals at the numbers below, an operator can connect them to a patient's room: 

  • HSHS Sacred Heart: (715) 717-4121
  • HSHS St. Joseph’s: (715) 723-1811

HSHS said in the news release: "In an effort minimize interruptions to bedside caregivers, we do ask each patient to designate one individual who can serve as the spokesperson to their friends/family. This individual will be able to call the nurse and receive detailed updates on the patient’s status."

Mayo Clinic Health System last week also announced that starting Monday, patients would only be allowed one visitor while they're staying at a local Mayo Clinic facility, and visitors under 13 would not be allowed in inpatient settings. The new policy impacts hospitals in Barron, Bloomer, Eau Claire, Menomonie and Osseo and all clinics in the region. 

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.