The DCH Health System announced Wednesday that it will further tighten its visitation policies as the number of inpatients infected with COVID-19 continues to surge within their facilities.

In another worrying daily update, the system said it was treating 126 inpatients who were sick with the virus Wednesday. 36 were committed to intensive care units and 16 required the use of a ventilator.

The new numbers represent the continuation of a sharp spike in new COVID cases requiring hospitalization, which have more than doubled in just two weeks.

As the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate and vaccine hesitancy remains high across all of Alabama, DCH is once again tightening restrictions on visitors within their facilities.

Effective at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, only one support person per day will be allowed to visit patients in the hospital -- even if that visitor leaves, a second loved one cannot "rotate" out with them.

Patients who are COVID-positive will not be allowed any visitors at all, except in end-of-life events or palliative care situations.

All visitors must be at least 16 years old, wear masks at all times and follow strict guidelines within DCH facilities.

Restrictions are somewhat looser in certain scenarios and tighter in others. At the North Harbor psychiatric facility, for instance, all in-person visitation is forbidden for the time being and loved ones must communicate with patients there by phone.

Read the full update policy here, which goes into effect Thursday.

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