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University of Kansas Health System updates visitation policy
coronavirus tribune

KANSAS CITY — The University of Kansas Health System announced it is seeing a steady number of COVID-19 patients.

During its Friday media briefing on COVID-19, Danielle Johnson, Ph.D., Psychology, and Sierra Stites, Master of Public Health Student, joined the panel to talk about the emotional and mental toll on the population that is also most vulnerable to COVID-19.

There is also an update to the health system visitation policy.

Chris Ruder, vice president, patient care services and associate chief nursing officer of The University of Kansas Health System, announced an update to the health system’s visitor policy. Each patient will now be allowed one visitor per day. He says the restriction was first put into place to keep patients and staff safe, and to preserve personal protective equipment. He says the health system knows how vital the support of loved ones is to patients and now has enough safety protocols in place to allow limited visitors. He says leadership teams will be monitoring the effects of the new policy.

Dr. Johnson, who works with children, says the COVID-19 crisis has prompted an unprecedented number of calls to suicide hotlines and an increased number of suicide attempts by kids. She says during the pandemic, parents need to have honest and age appropriate conversations with their kids as often as possible. She explains that the social isolation, and sometimes limited resources among poorer members of society, can put an extra strain on families. She notes that kids can see parents struggling even when they say they aren’t, and it’s vital for parents to let the children know that they’ll all get through this together. She tells parents that during this time of social isolation, it’s OK to give in to more screen time, and parents need to look for creative but safe ways for their kids to interact with friends. She also says social isolation for seniors is worse than ever, and we must take care of our older relatives just as much as our children, while making sure to take care of ourselves.

Sierra Stites has spent time in smaller communities in Kansas helping the KDHE as a case investigator. Part of her job is to help those who have tested positive, and their families, to cope. She has seen the effects of social isolation firsthand, and the negative effects it causes. She says state and local health departments are the best resources for help and information for residents in smaller communities. As the biracial daughter of Dr. Stites, she says she has seen COVID-19 from a unique perspective. She says for a population that’s traditionally had a hard time being seen and heard, the pandemic has compounded the problem.

Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of infection prevention and control at The University of Kansas Health System, took on the question of letting the kids go to the neighborhood pool when it opens. He says the danger isn’t in the water itself, but in not keeping proper social distancing both in and around the pool. He also talked about ways to make it safe for kids to visit their friends and outside family members. He also answered the question from a viewer about why they can’t simply go visit anyone they want as long as they wear a mask.