Nacogdoches Medical Center this week announced tightened visitor restrictions as COVID-19-related hospitalizations continue to climb.

Visitors are limited pre-approved parents of young patients, a designated support person in Pediatric and Women’s Services, end-of-life situations and others evaluated on a case-by-case basis, hospitals officials announced. No visitors will be allowed in the COVID-19 patient care area, a press release from NMC Health Network states.

Both patients and visitors are being screened for exposure and symptoms of the coronavirus as they enter Nacogdoches Medical Center. Similar measures are in place at Memorial Hospital, where visitors are prohibited except those related to end-of-life, labor coaches or pediatric caregivers. NMC visitors must be age 16 and up, while those at Memorial must be 18 or older.

Hospitalizations in the seven-county Deep East Texas region that includes Nacogdoches have remained above 15% since mid-December, according to the Department of State Health Services. Per order of the governor, the region’s hospitalization rate must drop below 15% for seven straight days for non-essential businesses to expand to 75% capacity and hospitals to resume elective surgeries.

The local hospitalization rate is about 22%, says Jessica Sowell, spokeswoman for the County Emergency Management Office, which has been inundated with calls from those asking about the vaccine.

“The county and the city and SFA have been working together to figure out where we can support our providers,” she said during a Tuesday update.

Emergency Management recently coordinated a vaccine effort at the County Expo Center, a facility large enough to get vaccines administered safely to a large amount of people over a short period.

“It was a way for the city and county to help get vaccines out as fast as possible — we’re going to continue to do that when there is another provider who needs space, who needs manpower and coordination,” she said.

The best way to get the vaccine for those 65 and up who qualify is to register ahead of time with their doctor or pharmacy, she said.

Department of State Health Services on Tuesday confirmed 24 new cases of the virus since its last update Monday afternoon. Active cases — those confirmed and considered contagious — have reached 478, surpassing the prior peak of 442 estimated on Aug. 7.

A 14-day trendline released by the County Emergency Management Office Tuesday shows average new cases have risen above 20 per day, still below the mid-summer peak of 27 per day.

A local COVID-19 call center remains open to answer questions at 936-468-4787.

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