Chicago-Area Hospital Changes Visitor Policy Due to ‘Substantial’ Flu Increase – NBC Chicago

A Chicago-area hospital is limiting visitors amid a “substantial increase” in flu cases.

Advocate Aurora Health said all of its facilities have a “limited-visitor policy in place to ensure safe care” as they work to “reduce the spread of COVID, flu and other seasonal illnesses.”

A spokesperson for the hospital told NBC Chicago the move was “due to the substantial increase in influenza activity.”

Under the policy, only two visitors are allowed at a time for all patients. Masks are also required inside facilities, regardless of vaccination status and visitors will need to pass “health screening requirements.”

Here’s a look at the visitor guidelines:

  • Two visitors at a time are allowed for all patients.
  • Visitors of pediatric patients, including patients in the NICU, must be 18 years old or older and authorized by a parent or caregiver.
  • Siblings younger than 18 may visit healthy newborns if the siblings are healthy and accompanied by a parent.
  • One substitute decision-maker is permitted in addition to two visitors for patients who need help making decisions.
  • One doula is permitted in addition to two visitors for patients who are in labor.
  • Faith leaders are permitted in addition to two visitors.
  • In end-of-life situations, the number of visitors permitted is based on available space and must allow for the patient to be safely cared for.
  • Our care team may limit visitors, support people and chaperones if there’s a health or safety risk to the patient, visitor or care team.

Health experts in Chicago and across the country have been expressing concern since October that an “explosion” of respiratory viruses — RSV, influenza and COVID — would start to appear this fall and winter as cases of each continue to rise.

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said “seasonal influenza activity is elevated across the country,” with levels reported to be high in Illinois.

“We are continuing to see a rise in influenza activity, and along with this is increases in outpatient clinic visits, ER visits and hospitalized children for influenza-like illness,” Dr. Jennifer Seo with the Chicago Department of Public Health said last week.

The Illinois Department of Public Health told NBC Chicago last week that pediatric ICU bed availability had dropped to 4% statewide due to cases of children needing treatment for respiratory syncytial virsus (RSV), a respiratory virus that doesn’t typically peak until late-December through mid-February.

“We’re being kind of overwhelmed by the RSV cases. We’re probably at about three to five times our usual normal cases,” said Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Chicago’s top doctor has expressed concern that hospitals will be stretched with the expected rise in illnesses.

“My concern is as COVID really takes off and as the flu really takes off that it is really going to continue to stretch our hospital capacity,” Dr. Allison Arwady, the public health commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said last week, adding “flu is very much coming to Chicago.”

Arwady is expected to receive her bivalent COVID booster shot Tuesday, while also urging people to get both the COVID and flu vaccines.

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