AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) issued updated, expanded guidance to hospitals in an attempt to protect patients from coronavirus. This guidance includes only granting facility access to essential visitors such as medical professionals and authorized caregivers acting specially on a patient's behalf.

This guidance applies to general hospitals, special hospitals and private psychiatric hospitals, including outpatient clinics that are operated by hospitals.

“At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott and effective immediately, we are requiring hospitals to prevent non-essential visitors from access given the significant health and safety risk to patients posed by COVID-19,” said David Kostroun, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Regulatory Services. “These measures are precautionary and based on the state disaster declaration made by Gov. Abbott, as well as new federal guidance.”

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According to Texas HHS, essential visitors include:

  • Government personnel
  • One designated caregiver acting on a patient's behalf, such as a parent of a minor or a legally authorized representative
  • Patient family members, but no more than one at a time
  • Clergy members authorized by the hospital
  • Additional family members of patients at the end of life or presenting at the emergency department, subject to hospital policy

Hospitals are also required to implement screening protocols for anyone entering a facility, using guidelines issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Under certain compassionate care circumstances, such as a patient's end-of-life, non-essential visitors will be allowed in a hospital and the facility must follow all CMS protocols.

Texas HHS is also requiring hospitals to do the following:

  • Post signs at the entrance about access restrictions
  • Check for fever of visitors and staff
  • Continue to monitor and isolate patients with fever or acute respiratory symptoms
  • Provide infection control training to staff
  • Execute frequent handwashing
  • Provide personal protective equipment to patients or staff as needed

This week, Texas HHS has also issued updated guidance for nursing facilities and child care facilities.

Texas HHS is encouraging regulated providers to stay up-to-date on the latest guidance by visiting the department's COVID‑19 page.

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