Central State Hospital puts no-visitor policy back in place due to COVID-19 rate uptick
Beginning Sept. 3, only staff, 'mission-critical' contractors and vendors, and attorneys will be allowed inside. Family members and friends can no longer visit patients for the foreseeable future.
The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, which operates CSH and 11 other mental hospitals throughout Virginia, announced the changes to the visitor policy Thursday. The hospitals, which were shut down to visitors at the onset of the pandemic last year, reopened last April on a limited basis and with pandemic protocols in place.
That will all change come Friday, DBHDS said.
On that day, access to any of the CSH campus will be limited to patients and hospital staff, so-called "mission-critical" contractors and vendors, and attorneys representing the patients. The no-visitor list "includes, but is not limited to family members, friends, authorized representatives, guardians, legal representatives, members of the general public, regulatory agencies, and site inspectors," DBHDS said in its announcement.
"The visitation policies are vital to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to DBHDS patients and staff, and to maintain the critical services provided by DBHDS facilities," the agency statement read.
DBHDS spokesperson Lauren Cunningham said Wednesday that there currently are 13 cases of COVID-19 among Central State staff. No patients have recently tested positive
The change does not affect admissions; however, CSH is one of three facilities where temporary-detainment order admissions — patients who are in involuntary legal custody, such as suspects arrested by police — that has paused acceptance of those patients due to critical staff shortages.
Also, DBHDS said, visits to the juvenile sections of CSH will be off-limits to everyone except for parents and guardians of minor children with special circumstances.
The visitor-restriction policy will be in place until further notice. They could be amended, however, depending on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health.
Cunningham told The Progress-Index Wednesday that there still was no timetable for when TDO admissions would be reinstated.
"Our number-one concern is the safety of both staff and patients and it remains our hope that the temporary admissions closure will not last a day longer than it has to," Cunningham said.
Veteran journalist Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is the regional daily news coach for the USA TODAY Network Southeast Region's Unified Central group, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and portions of North Carolina. He is based at The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.