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AdventHealth Gordon has announced it will update its visitation policy on Tuesday to allow one visitor for COVID-19 patients and "multiple visitors" for non-pandemic patients.

Visitors under 18 are not permitted unless they are seeking care.

"All visitors must wear a mask and stay in the patient's room," the hospital said in a news release. "For the safety of the hospital's team members and guests, AdventHealth Gordon's common areas will remain closed at this time. Thank you for your understanding and assistance."

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The policy update comes two months after AdventHealth Gordon reported it was over capacity. Hospital leaders now say the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients has decreased to such a level that they are comfortable updating the visitation policy to allow more opportunities for more visitors.

AdventHealth Gordon spokesperson Garrett Nudd said that the stricter visitation policies in place earlier in the pandemic — which blocked COVID-19 patients from having any visitors and instituted a one-visitor maximum for all other patients — were important both for safety and crowd control purposes. The new rules still emphasize safety and don't allow for large crowds, he said, but also prioritize the morale boost that can sometimes come from a visit with a family member.

"We are now allowing a small number of visitors to the hospital. We still don't have people sitting around in common areas or lobbies or anything like that. We keep those free of people for safety and because this is a balancing act," Nudd said. "We recognize that people need the support of their family members when they are in the hospital and want to accommodate that as best as possible. In the surges, we couldn't do that as much because it was just a matter of keeping our heads above water at times."

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AdventHealth Gordon is a 69-bed hospital, he said, and had more than 80 patients at times.

"Keeping visitors and extra bodies out of the hospital was important for us to be able to do our work at that point," he said. "Now that we are dealing with less of that, we wanted to open up a little for families."

In August, Gordon County Commissioner Bud Owens wrote and shared a public letter urging county residents to get vaccinated, noting that 98% of newly hospitalized patients in the county at the time had not taken the vaccine. Nudd said getting folks vaccinated is still the priority, even as policy changes are happening.

"We are still encouraging vaccination as the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent hospitalizations. We don't want to end up back where we were," Nudd said.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health's vaccine distribution dashboard, 38% of all Gordon County residents had been fully vaccinated as of Friday. The statewide percentage of fully vaccinated residents is slightly higher at 51%.

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Vaccinations are still free for everyone statewide, and identification is not required when getting vaccinated.

For more information on how to get vaccinated in Northwest Georgia, visit nghd.org or nwgapublichealth.org. Contacts for other COVID-19 vaccine providers in the area are available at vaccines.gov.

Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.

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