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Beginning Saturday, Erlanger Health System will not allow visitors into any of its hospitals - with limited exceptions - due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the Chattanooga region, according to a news release from the hospital system.

Chattanooga's biggest hospital system changed its visitation policy "in an effort to curb community spread and protect staff, patients, and the community at large," the release states.

Limited exceptions will be made to the policy on a case-by-case basis. Erlanger's visitation policy for end-of-life, obstetrics, newborn intensive care unit and children's hospital will remain unchanged.

Officials made the decision after "careful consideration of the changing situation with COVID-19" and "rapid community spread," according to the release. Other changes may be made as they deem necessary. For more information about the hospital's response to the coronavirus, visit Erlanger.org/coronavirus.

Hamilton County is beginning to see the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings as COVID-19 cases rise, hospitalization totals are breaking records and deaths are spiking. On Tuesday, the Hamilton County Health Department reported 12 new coronavirus deaths, the deadliest day for the virus to date. There are few indications that this trend will slow as case totals and positivity rates of new tests remain at record highs.

In Cleveland, the Bradley County Jail suspended all on-site visitations from Dec. 14 until Jan. 4 due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the county, according to a news release from the Bradley County Sheriff's Office. All scheduled on-site public inmate visits will be canceled for a minimum of three weeks, but all video home visitations will continue to be accessible.

"The health and safety of everyone inside and outside of the Bradley County Justice Center is of the greatest importance to my office and staff, as it has been throughout this entire pandemic," Sheriff Steve Lawson said in the release. "The public's cooperation and understanding are appreciated as we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of our inmates and employees." 

Intensive care unit beds in the city of Cleveland have reached 99% occupancy, according to data from The New York Times, using reports from hospitals and from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Just last week, the city was listed among the top 10 emerging coronavirus hot spots in the Times' ongoing tracking of virus data.

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