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Despite Omicron Variant, Two Valley Hospitals Loosen Visitor Rules



Two Valley hospitals are loosening their visitation policies. (Shutterstock)
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Even with new Omicron variant cases making waves throughout the state, Kaweah Health says it is easing restrictions for people visiting patients.

The decision follows a decrease in COVID-19 cases for Kaweah Health.

“Restricting visitors has been the hardest thing we have ever had to do,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health’s chief executive officer. “We’re excited about this change we’re going to make and we hope it continues to go in this direction.”

On Monday, Kaweah had 34 COVID-19 inpatients, nine of whom were in ICU.

Will other Valley hospitals follow in their footsteps?

As of now, Saint Agnes Medical Center is the only other local hospital to have loosened visitor restrictions.

Who Has Visiting Rights? 

The new visitor guidelines for Kaweah Health were implemented on Tuesday. However, the new guidelines are for patients who don’t have COVID-19.

Non-COVID patients will be able to have one visitor per day during visiting hours, and those visitors will have to follow strict screenings for symptoms of COVID-19. Those are fever, new cough, new shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste.

Visitors are required to wear a surgical mask while in healthcare facilities and in patient-care areas. They also must be fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus 72 hours prior to indoor visits. Or, they can show proof of medical release from COVID-19 isolation per state guidelines.

“We are first to recognize and fully support that visitation is a critical part of the care process,” said Herbst. “Visitors help relieve anxiety, they improve communication between the patient and care team, and they are part of the healing process.”

Some Exceptions For COVID-Positive Patients

For COVID-positive patients, visitation guidelines remain unchanged for the most part with a few exceptions.

However, Kaweah’s care team will evaluate and approve exceptions for patients in extenuating circumstances, hospital officials said.

Are Other Valley Hospitals Making Changes?

Fresno’s Saint Agnes Medical Center also changed its visitation policies last week, but they will remain highly restrictive according to their communications director, Kelley Sanchez.

Sanchez said they revised their visitation policies to allow one visitor per week for patients staying at least one week in the hospital. Previously, no visitors were allowed.

Throughout the pandemic, the hospital has had exceptions in special circumstances.

With many of their patients staying in the hospital longer than normal, Sanchez said they decided to revisit those policies given the holiday season, and after their COVID inpatient numbers stabilized.

“We recognize how important it is for patients to feel the support of their loved ones, but we have an obligation to do everything possible to keep our patients, colleagues, and community safe,” said Sanchez.

She said visitor policies have changed several times during the pandemic, and expects they will continue to evolve.

“While we all hope and pray for an end to the pandemic, we recognize that with the new Omicron variant, we will likely see a surge again, but exactly what that looks like in terms of numbers, no one knows,” Sanchez said.

“What we do know is that vaccines protect against hospitalization and death, so we continue to urge the public to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, and to get the booster.”

A spokesman for Kaiser Permanente, Jordan Scott, said the healthcare system has strict visitor policies that are continually evaluated by their infectious disease experts.

“Kaiser Permanente’s hospital visitor policy is tied directly to COVID-19 community transmission rates, as measured by each county public health department,” said Scott.

Local Hospital Visitation Policies

Both Community Medical Centers and Valley Children’s Hospital say their strict no-visitation policies remain in place.

To review Kaweah Health visitor guidelines, click here.

To review St. Agnes Medical Center visitor guidelines, click here.

To review Community Medical Center guidelines, click here.

To review Kaiser Permanente’s guidelines, click here.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at

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