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Kaweah Health announces visitor policy modifications, restores elective surgeries

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Laura Florez-McCusker

VISALIA, CA – Due to a continued decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Kaweah Health has restored elective surgeries and effective Monday, Oct. 19, the Medical Center will modify its visitor policy.

“Things have changed. The pandemic has had its peaks and valleys. We’re experiencing a valley right now,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health's Chief Executive Officer, noting that the Medical Center cares for approximately 20 COVID-19 patients on most days, down from hospital’s all-time high of 91 COVID patients in July. “We also recently dipped into the teens and that’s really the break we’ve been hoping for.”

The visitor policy modification will generally allow patients of Kaweah Health Medical Center, who are not in isolation for COVID-19 (with the exception of patients in the Emergency Department and those having surgery) to have one unique visitor each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. provided they:

  • Pass a COVID-19 screening prior to 6 p.m. at the hospital’s Acequia Avenue entrance.
  • Have not recently tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Are not in quarantine for COVID-19 (pending testing, exposure, etc.).
  • Are older than 12 years old.
  • Wear a surgical face mask.
  • Remain in the patient’s room except to use the restroom or get food.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome back our visitors and families. Limiting visitors was one of the most difficult actions that we had to take during this pandemic even though safety was at the forefront of it,” Herbst said. “We are a compassionate organization and we know how critically important it is to be surrounded by friends and family when you are in the hospital.”

Herbst noted that while a unique visitor will be allowed, that’s one visitor per patient, per day, not several visitors who rotate through an hour at a time. “Again, every time you have another visitor, that’s just one more potential exposure to COVID,” said Herbst, noting that 50-80 percent of individuals who are infected with COVID-19 experience no symptoms. “That’s really what we are trying to limit, but we will continue to monitor COVID developments and refine our visitor policies when and where we can.”

Kaweah Health's Emergency Department only allows visitors in the following situations:

  • End-of-life patients
  • Patients whose conditions are deteriorating rapidly and need family by their side
  • Patients who are having major surgery, trauma, and at high risk of death
  • Patients requiring supervision
  • Patients who are children.

Also Monday, Oct. 19, expanded visitation will take place with residents of Kaweah Health's skilled nursing facility on Court Street. Residents will be able to identify two visitors who will then be scheduled during the week to come for a visit in a controlled setting. Kaweah Health's Rehabilitation Hospital will continue scheduling family visitors as needed for continuity of care and training for care at home. And starting Monday, Oct. 26, patients having surgery can have a visitor provided they meet all screening requirements.

“We know that there are people who need surgery, but have been reluctant to have surgery knowing that they couldn’t have a visitor with them. The decision to modify the visitor policy goes hand-in-hand with elective surgeries,” Herbst said. “These changes will definitely help those who have quality of life issues that need to be attended to with a surgical procedure.”

In May, Kaweah Health resumed non-emergent essential surgeries and put a number of safety measures in place, of which the following will remain in place:

  • Testing every scheduled surgical patient for COVID-19, 72-96 hours prior to surgery
  • Pre-screening all patients the night before and the morning they arrived for their procedure
  • Screening all visitors who enter the Medical Center.
  • Universal masking for all individuals in the Medical Center, including surgical patients, employees and medical staff.
  • Enhanced facility cleaning and usage of personal protective equipment for clinical teams
  • Maintaining isolated units for COVID-19 care
  • Requiring medical staff and employees to self-monitor for symptoms prior to reporting to every shift.

Also starting next week, the hospital will begin its safety screening of Emergency Department (ED) and Labor and Delivery patients inside of the hospital’s Mineral King Wing (off Mineral King Avenue). The change is in response to the decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and the decreased rate of COVID-related ED visits. This will also allow the hospital to continue construction on its ED, which is estimated to be complete in Spring 2021. As a result of this continued construction, beginning in November, the current Emergency Department parking lot entrance on Mineral King Avenue will be closed, and patients will have to use the entrance on Locust Street to enter the Emergency Department parking lot. Detour signage is being placed throughout downtown Visalia.

Kaweah Health shares COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at and on its social media accounts.