(Updated March 24)
March 20, 2020
First, thank you for the many ways you are showing God’s love in caring for our community. These are unprecedented times. It has been inspiring to hear stories of faith communities showing up for those most in need. Here at the hospital we are grateful for the NC Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission Disaster Relief and the Baptist State Convention of NC who donated thousands of N95 respirator masks to keep our front line providers safe after we had nearly run out of protective equipment. I suspect all of us are experiencing both sides of caring.
As you may have heard, the risk of the spread of COVID-19 has significantly increased in our area. Our health system is increasing visitor restrictions for the health and safety of our patients, our staff and our community. Effective Friday, March 20 at 8 pm, no visitors will be allowed at any Wake Forest Baptist facility, except in the following situations:
- Hospitalized minors (maximum 2 family members per day)
- Patients at the end of life (maximum 2 family members per day)
- Patients needing help with communication, decision making or mobility
- Patients giving birth (maximum 2 family members/support people per day)
Children 12 and under, including siblings of patients, may not visit. Families with special situations should contact their care team and attending physician.
We are stopping short of prohibiting visits from faith leaders for now. However, we strongly encourage you to attempt to offer any care you can by phone or video and reserve in-person visits, if at all, for extreme emergencies, such as end of life events only. We know that virtual ministry is awkward and not ideal. However, your virtual prayers and care are still powerful. With the increased risk of spread of COVID-19 in our communities, you are at risk of not only exposure to the virus, but also of transmitting it to others members of your community and your family.
Your health and the health of your faith community members is our priority and we need you well to care for your people. They need you now more than ever. If you are ill, especially if you have a cough, fever or other respiratory symptoms, please refrain from visiting. Visitors may be screened for fever and other risk factors before being allowed to visit.
As noted in our previous communication, our chaplains remain available to serve as your liaisons for spiritual care inside our medical centers. We encourage you to call ahead to speak with a chaplain about visiting for you. During business hours, you may call the main number of any of our medical centers and ask to contact the chaplain. After hours, you may ask the hospital operator to page the on call chaplain for you. We deeply value the relationship you have with your people and know that the decision to visit in person or not can be terribly difficult.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has excellent COVID-19 resources and information for Community and Faith-Based Leaders HERE. If you are looking for up-to-date general information about COVID-19, we encourage you to visit this CDC website. Additionally, Wake Forest Baptist Health’s website has information available HERE.
Our health system also has a COVID-19 Hotline. Please call 336-70-COVID for questions and concerns. If you would like to talk with a chaplain and medical professional about COVID-19 concerns, Chaplain Keith Stirewalt who is both a Chaplain and Physician Assistant remains available by phone. You can reach him by calling 336-716-4746 and leaving a message.
As we seek to care for patients and families inside the walls of the hospital, we hope that you will continue to care for the members of your faith community as well as those who are vulnerable around you. We need each other as we seek to care for those who are isolated from the communities that call them by name.
Please know that these guidelines may change quickly. We will keep you up-to-date as we can on our policies and procedures regarding clergy visitation. For this reason, we do encourage you to call before your visit in case of changes.
With gratitude and prayer,
Rev. Dr. Gary Gunderson and Chaplain Emily Viverette