Ballad Health to prohibit visitors in ER, screen all team members for fevers

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ballad Health officials announced increased visitation restrictions that will bar visitors from emergency rooms and outpatient treatment facilities throughout the system, officials announced Tuesday.

Chief Operations Officer Eric Deaton announced that the heightened measures would begin Wednesday, with some exceptions under “extenuating” circumstances. Labor and Delivery and the Neonatal Intensive Care Until are still allowing some restricted visitors, he added.

“The only people allowed into a Ballad Health facility will be our physicians, our Ballad Health team members and others who are required to care for our patients,” Deaton said.

In addition, Deaton said that there is a system-wide mandate for all team members to be screened upon entering any Ballad Health facilities. Those with fevers of 100 or higher will be sent home and retested in 72 hours, he said.

Ballad has also developed a communication system dubbed “Code Airway,” which Deaton said helps protect employees coming into contact with COVID-19 patients.

He described Code Airway as a two-way communication system that allows for EMS workers to communicate to Ballad’s emergency services employees to be prepared in the event a COVID-19-positive patient is admitted.

“It’s designed for EMS to make sure the patient is cared for appropriately and we have the appropriate PPE when the patient arrives,” Deaton said.

In other news, Ballad Infection Prevention Specialist Jamie Swift reported that there are 13 patients receiving inpatent care for COVID-19. With about 200 beds on standby for a potential surge, Swift and other officials said they feel confident in Ballad’s ability to manage a potential surge.

She also said that a “cluster” of cases reported at Hawkins County Memorial Hospital appears to be contained as the health system hasn’t returned any more positive tests associated with the facility.

The rising cases in Hawkins County, she added, are likely coming from spread in the community.

Testing last week produced positive results in ages ranging from six weeks old to 90 years old, Swift said, pointing to continuing community spread.

“We know with those age ranges, it’s really across the board now, it truly is community spread,” she said, repeating a weeks-long call for social distancing.

Ballad CEO Alan Levine said more updates will be coming in a press briefing scheduled for tomorrow.

You can watch the entire news conference on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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