Park City Hospital owner Intermountain Healthcare announced on Monday, April 5, that the hospital system will allow visitors for all patients at its facilities as COVID-19 case rates decline in Utah.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago, hospitals disallowed all patient visitors regardless of the severity of illness. Many of the more than half a million Americans who died from COVID-19 did so alone due to hospital visitor restrictions.
IHC is now allowing two visitors per patient on a limited basis. Visitors should plan to be questioned about their exposure to COVID-19 and fill out and sign a form for the hospital's records. They'll require face masks and the use of hand sanitizer during the visit.
For the complete list of IHC's visitor requirements, visit the hospital group's website.
Dr. Eddie Stenhjem, a member of IHC’s infectious disease team, said Utah is in an excellent place to make a transition back to allowing limited visitation and he many healing benefits when patients can connect with their loved ones.
“We’re in a good spot epidemiologically here in Utah,” he said. “With decreasing case counts throughout the state and plateauing at lower levels, decrease in hospitalizations, decrease in deaths, and also decrease in test positivity. All those are our metrics that we follow to ensure that we're moving in the right direction. And we are. The biggest concern we have is following these viral variants or these viral mutations that have led to the ability for the virus to transmit easier. And we know that those variants are here in Utah, and they'll likely become the dominant strain that we're seeing in Utah. And those can lead to increased transmission and also have higher severity.”
Stenehjem said it's a race between the vaccines and the new COVID-19 variants. The more contagious U.K. and California strains are here in Utah and that the focus should be on getting the vaccine to everyone as quickly as possible.
"It just highly emphasizes the need we need to get everybody vaccinated, as soon as we can ensure that people get the vaccines and know it's a safe and effective vaccine,” he said. “At this point, you know all the variants we see here, we can be protected from them by getting vaccinated."
Utah’s mask mandate ends on Saturday, April 10. Stenehjem said the state is at a critical point, and people shouldn't let their guard down now. He said everyone must continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash their hands often.
"Our perspective is, now is not the time to pull back, now's the time to continue our current efforts, continue to see those cases drop, continue to get more people vaccinated,” he said. “And so, it's our opinion that we should all continue to wear masks, regardless, if there's a statewide mask mandate or not, but we all need to continue to wear masks, as we engage with the community and where we can socially distance."
Intermountain Healthcare’s press release outlines specific visitor details for recovering COVID patients, laboring mothers and end-of-life patients. In most cases, they'll allow two visitors for children, infants, and newborns in intensive care units.
If someone knows they have COVID-19, been exposed to the virus, or have flu or cold-like symptoms, they cannot visit hospitals or clinics.