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Washington Regional adjusting visitor hours, closing shops as COVID patients increase

Hospitals in Northwest Arkansas are currently caring for 90 hospitalized COVID patients, a 48% increase in the last week and a 537% increase in the last month.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Washington Regional says they are moving to "Phase 2" of their COVID-19 Surge Plan as more Arkansans are hospitalized due to the virus. 

The Phase 2 plan includes temporarily reassigning hospital and clinic team members to assist in areas of most need, reducing visitor hours, reducing the number of visitors allowed in most areas of the hospital, and closing the cafeteria, coffee shop and gift shop. 

Washington Regional says Phase 2 allows them to move to a team-based nursing approach where primary nurses have support from secondary nurses for non-specialized tasks.

"It’s important for the community to know this is a serious situation," Birch Wright, Washington Regional chief operating officer and administrator, said. "NWA hospitals have seen a significant increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients over the last 30 days with an exponential increase over the last week."

Wright says hospitals in Northwest Arkansas are currently caring for 90 hospitalized COVID patients, a 48% increase in the last week and a 537% increase in the last month. 

"This rate of increase is not sustainable," he said. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arkansas have spiked since June. According to the latest data from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), over 800 COVID patients are currently being treated in the state, and 131 of them are on ventilators. A UAMS model projects hospitalizations to grow into the thousands over the coming months as the Delta variant of the virus spreads. 

Besides COVID-19 patients, hospitals are still tasked with taking care of critical care patients. 

Health care officials blame relaxed mask requirements and low vaccination numbers in the state for the sudden surge in cases. Arkansas currently has 40% of its population 12 and older vaccinated, according to the ADH. 

"We urge community members to get vaccinated if they have not already, to encourage family members and friends to get vaccinated and to be vigilant in public," Wright said.

For more information on Washington Regional visitation policies, click here

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