With the number of in-patent COVID-19 cases more than tripling in the past month, Evanston-based NorthShore Community HealthSystem is reducing the number of visitors allowed in its facilities.

The latest count Monday shows NorthShore with a total of 62 COVID inpatients in Evanston, Glenbrook, and Highland Park hospitals, including 12 (19%) in Intensive Care Units.

That compares to only 16 inpatients, with four in the ICU on Nov. 17.

In a message, NorthShore says that while the hospital system understands the importance of patients seeing friends and family, “a resurgence of COVID-19 in the communities we serve is prompting us to tighten our visitor policy.”

Effective Monday, non-COVID patients will be able to receive only one visitor per day instead of the previous two. There are some exceptions. For example, clergy are not included in the one-visitor limit.

COVID-19 patients may not have visitors due to the contagious nature of the virus, except for ones in the ICU who can have one visitor per week for 30 minutes.

NorthShore spokesperson Jim Anthony tells Evanston Now that the “vast majority” of COVID in-patients are unvaccinated, and “our sickest patients are by and large unvaccinated” as well.

Laboratory results so far show all the COVID cases are the Delta variant, however Anthony says when the December analysis is completed, the results “will likely include the Omicron variant.”

Anthony says despite the increase in cases, “our medical teams are busy but managing the situation well.”

Most NorthShore COVID in-patients are handled at Glenbrook, with some in Evanston and Highland Park.

The other hospital in Evanston, Amita Health St. Francis, has seen the number of COVID in-patients more than double lately, from six on Nov. 22 to 13 Monday.

St. Francis visitors remain limited to one per day for non-COVID patients, with some exceptions such as end-of-life situations. COVID patients may not have visitors.

At both hospital systems, all visitors must be screened for COVID before entering, and wear masks at all time.

As for what can be done to prevent catching the highly contagious Omicron variant or minimizing its impact, NorthShore’s Anthony says, “Our experts stress that the most important Omicron piece of information is that a third vaccine dose appears to be a lot more protective than two doses, so they are encouraging people to get their boosters.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.