SONORA, Calif. (KTXL) — Tuolumne County health officials recorded 34 new coronavirus positive cases Tuesday and now the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has reached an all-time high.
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging, Adventist Health Sonora is returning to some pandemic protocols and limiting hospital visitors.
“So, the number today is 17, and that is at its worst point,” explained Adventist Health Sonora medical officer Dr. Alexander Heard. “As we track daily numbers, they are back to where we were in the first surge last year.”
Heard told FOX40 that beginning Wednesday, no visitors will be allowed for most patients.
Pediatric, maternity and end-of-life care are the only exceptions.
“We do have lots of other ways to communicate with families,” Heard said. “We have iPads that we can do FaceTime with the patients and with the care teams, phone calls. We’re trying to find every strategy we can so that the patients who aren’t having visitors, we can still involve the family as part of that care decision making.”
For those visitors who are allowed, they must be 18 years or older, they will be required to wear a mask at all times. They must also be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their visit.
“The direction of going to restrict visitors for a second time is really to protect the staff, protect the patients, protect people coming in and out of our hospitals,” Heard explained.
Health officials say they anticipated another surge since Tuolumne County hasn’t reached herd immunity with vaccinations, but they hoped the numbers wouldn’t be as high as they are.
“It’s putting an enormous strain on the hospital staff. For the last 17 months, they have been working extra, they have been going over and above. They have been exposing themselves to people who have been infected with COVID,” Heard said. “It’s been a high stress, high pace, just exhaustion, and the staff is worn out.”
According to Heard, 85% to 90% of the COVID-19-positive patients currently in the hospital and nearly 100% of the recent deaths are unvaccinated patients.
He’s imploring the community to do their part to help doctors, nurses and other frontline staff.
“Get vaccinated. That is the easy answer to the COVID pandemic,” Heard advised.
Tuolumne County health officials say they’ll loosen the restrictions once the COVID-19 surge has passed.