FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Washington Regional announced on Wednesday that it has operationalized Phase 2 of its COVID-19 Surge Plan due to “significant growth” in local COVID-19 cases and inpatient hospitalizations.

The move allows Washington Regional to temporarily reassign some of its hospital and clinic team members to assist in areas of most critical need.

The hospital says this will allow it to expand its capacity and make it possible to care for an increased number of COVID and non-COVID patients.

Washington Regional is also making changes to its visitor policy amid the surge in cases.

Effective Thursday, July 22, it will reduce visitor hours, reduce the number of visitors allowed in most areas of the hospital, and close the cafeteria, coffee shop, and gift shop to visitors.

The revised policy can be viewed at www.wregional.com/visitorpolicy.

“It is important for the community to know that this is a serious situation,” Birch G. Wright, chief operating officer and administrator of Washington Regional Medical System said in the release. “NWA hospitals have seen a significant increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients over the last 30 days with an exponential increase over the last week. Currently, hospitals in the region are caring for over 90 hospitalized patients which is a 48% increase in the last week and a 538% increase in the last month.”

“This rate of increase is not sustainable,” Wright continued. “Along with caring for an influx of COVID-19 patients, our hospitals are also caring for a continued increase of critical care patients.. We urge community members to get vaccinated if they have not already, to encourage family members and friends to get vaccinated and to be vigilant in public.”