SAN DIEGO – Beginning Wednesday, health care facilities in San Diego County and throughout California will adhere to a state public health mandate requiring visitors show proof of vaccination or have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours to enter.
The Aug. 5 order released by Dr. Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health, was intended to prevent the “further spread” of COVID-19 in health care settings as cases are spiking in the U.S. It applies to indoor visitation at generate acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and immediate care facilities, the order shows. All visitors also are required to wear a well-fitting face mask.
Several local health care providers including UC San Diego Health, Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare, among others, plan to follow the state’s mandate restricting visitor access.
“It’s very helpful because we know that there are variants out there including the delta variant and they’re highly contagious,” said Lydia Ikeda, associate chief operating officer of the UC San Diego Health Physician Group, “so this is needed to keep our patients, our staff and our community safe.”
Under the order, facilities must plan to track verified visitor vaccination status and documentation of a negative COVID-19 test.
“Records of vaccination verification or documentation of a negative SARS-CoV-2 test must be made available, upon request, to the local health jurisdiction for purposes of case investigation,” the order reads.
The order includes some exceptions, including for people visiting a patient in critical condition “when death may be imminent.” UC San Diego health officials say other exceptions include those who are disabled or pregnant.
Opponents of the policy argue it violates “civil liberties and individual rights” of hospital visitors.
“It’s going to be problematic and chaotic to just increase the backlog and the bureaucracy of these hospitals to be able to see patients to be able to get them in, for people to be able to see their family members,” said Morgan Kimbarow with San Diego Young Republicans, adding, “I think that there has to be a better way.”
But with coronavirus infections on the rise as new variants emerge, health care workers say they hope this order can help stop the spread.
“Hopefully it will staunch this infection rate and maybe get people to think about it and maybe get a vaccination if they can,” Ikeda said. “Stay masked or just keep getting the COVID test and hopefully we can beat this virus again.”
The state’s public health order on hospital visitors can be read here.