Tri-State COVID cases continue upward climb, prompting hospitals to restrict visitors

Cases of COVID-19 continued to surge over the weekend, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting Monday that Washington County's transmission rate has reached the highest level in the CDC rankings.

In the seven-day period ending Saturday, the county had recorded 201 new cases, according to CDC statistics. The positivity rate for the period — the rate at which people being tested for the virus are testing positive — was 6.93%.

CDC defines a "high" transmission rate as 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents. As of Saturday, Washington County had posted 133.07 new cases per 100,000 in the previous seven days.

According to information from Washington County's Joint Information Center, 48% of the county's population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 44% are fully vaccinated.

The transmission surge has prompted Meritus Health to adopt a "color-coded visitor policy."

Effective Monday, Meritus Health facilities set color-coded visitor restrictions, according to a statement from the health system: 

  • Green — Visitors are permitted for all adult inpatients 24/7. Visitors for labor and delivery patients living outside the household must be age 12 or older.
  • Yellow — Visitors are restricted to no more than two at a time for all adult inpatients 24/7. All visitors must be age 12 or older, including for labor and delivery patients.
  • Orange — Visitors are heavily restricted. Visiting hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and only only one visitor will be permitted at a time for all adult inpatients. Visitors must be 18 or older.
  • Red – No visitors are allowed except for limited circumstances, including patients with disabilities, in labor and delivery, undergoing emergency surgeries, receiving discharge education and being given end-of-life care.
  • No visitors for patients diagnosed with or under investigation for COVID-19.

As of Monday, Meritus facilities were on Orange status, with limited visiting hours and only one visitor permitted.

Safety precautions including screening for COVID-19 and flu-like symptoms upon entrance, a face mask requirement, social distancing when possible and regular hand-washing remain in place.

Patients with disabilities may identify one designated support person as a care partner per Maryland regulation, even under the more restricted visitor guidelines.

Published in The Herald-Mail, August 2021.