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Northern Arizona Hospitals Tighten Visitation Amid Renewed COVID-19 Surge

Ross D. Franklin/AP, file

Hospital officials in northern Arizona will tighten patient visitation beginning Wednesday. New COVID-19 variants and lower-than-ideal vaccination rates are fueling a renewed surge in confirmed cases both locally and nationwide. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Northern Arizona Healthcare, the region’s biggest medical provider, says general visitation will only be allowed in end-of-life and other special circumstances. Limits will also be in place for pediatric, labor and delivery and outpatient care. Visitors at the Flagstaff and Verde Valley medical centers, along with NAH’s other facilities, are required to wear masks at all times regardless of their vaccination status.

Hospital officials say the highly transmissible delta variant is fueling the current spike. 

"Those that are unvaccinated and are infected with the delta variant have an 85% higher risk of requiring hospitalization compared to those that have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccination," says NAH chief quality officer Dr. John Mougin. 

Mougin says among vaccinated people severe COVID cases and death have been significantly reduced. Though medical officials are concerned about the current surge, it’s so far been less severe than previous pandemic spikes.

Renewed visitation restrictions come as Coconino, Yavapai and several other Arizona counties are again experiencing high transmission rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all people in such areas wear masks indoors along with teachers, staff and students at K-through-12 schools.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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