Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital has tightened its restrictions on visitation because of an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Halifax County, according to a news release issued by the hospital Thursday morning.

The hospital implemented tight restrictions on visitation in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting Halifax County. While some form of restrictions on visitation have been in place since then, the hospital slightly relaxed restrictions in late July.

As of Thursday morning, the Virginia Department of Health reported that 394 Halifax County residents had contracted the coronavirus since March. Of those, 149 cases of COVID-19 were recorded in September as well as five fatalities.

Under the hospital’s new visitation policy, no visitors are allowed inside Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital or in the emergency department, with few exceptions.

Hospital administration decided to modify the visitation policy “until we are able to safely implement new opportunities for limited visitation,” according to the news release issued by Joni Henderson, director of patient experience for Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital.

Exceptions to the newly updated hospital visitation policy are as follows:

• Maternity, Nursery and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients may have one visitor.

• Patients who are at end of life may have two visitors (non-COVID-19 and COVID-19 patients) at the discretion of nursing leadership.

• Patients with disruptive behavior, altered mental status, handicaps, or developmental delays may have one visitor to stay with them throughout their stay.

• Minors under the age of 18 may have one visitor, either a parent or a guardian.

The visitation policy is a change from the hospital’s loosened guidelines, which had been in place since late July. Under that visitation policy, inpatients who did not have a COVID-19 diagnosis or a suspected COVID-19 diagnosis were allowed one visitor per day between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Patients undergoing a surgical procedure or visiting the emergency department also were allowed to have one visitor.

Certain rules and guidelines on visitation have remained the same throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors are only allowed inside the hospital if they do not have symptoms of respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath) or current/ pending COVID-19 status. Children ages 12 and under are not allowed to visit the hospital under any circumstances at this time.

Visitors must wear a mask and stay in the patient’s room the entire time of their hospital visit. Visitors are also asked to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when entering or leaving a patient’s room. Once visitors leave a patient’s room, they must leave the hospital immediately and not linger/ socialize in public areas.