Gov. Greg Abbott waived regulations to bring more nurses into local hospitals and doctor’s offices in response to the COVID-19, coronavirus.

“In the coming weeks and months, Texas will continue to see a growing need for medical professionals to help us respond to these unique and challenging times,” he said.

“With these actions, Texas is taking an important step to meet that need. Nurses are essential to our ability to test for this virus, provide care for COVID-19 patients, and to continue providing other essential health care services. Suspending these regulations will allow us to bring additional skilled nurses into the workforce to assist with our efforts and enhance our COVID-19 response.”

Abbott agreed to:

■ Give temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses who haven’t taken their licensing exam.

■ Allow students in their final year of nursing school to meet clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences.

■ Allow nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate licenses.

Locally, Lufkin hospitals have further limited their visitor policy for patient and staff protection and are asking for the community’s help.

Woodland Heights Medical Center has asked anyone who has traveled from a high-risk area for COVID-19, has come in contact with a person known to be infected, or is experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 to delay visits unless seeking care.

“We have reduced entrances to the ER entrance only and are screening all visitors and patients who enter,” Jennifer Stevens, the director of marketing for Woodland Heights, said. “Only well, essential visitors such as immediate family, partner or significant other may visit patients.”

The hospital will allow two visitors per day for medical/surgical or orthopedic patients and one visitor per day for ICU, Step Down, Emergency Room and Women’s Services patients. They will not allow visitors for isolation patients, including those with pending testing.

The hospital also requires that all visitors be 18 years or older and has modified its visiting hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We appreciate the community’s understanding and compliance,” Stevens said.

CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial-Lufkin also has made changes to its visitation policy.

“Changes to our visitor policy were implemented out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our patients, visitors, employees and physicians,” a release by the hospital states.

CHI won’t allow more than one visitor per patient, in isolation or not, per day. Those visiting isolated patients will be required to wear personal protective equipment and kept out of common areas including cafeterias, waiting rooms, lobbies, gift shops and more.

All visitors will be screened before entering the hospital, although the release doesn’t state how.

“Now more than ever before, it is critical that every physician, nurse, transporter, food service worker and every role in between adhere to our policies and support the containment strategy the public health officials, elected officials and our medical leaders are advocating,” the release states.

In addition, CHI’s release asked that unless seeking care, anyone feeling sick return home and that children be left at home.

Visitation hours are between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Jess Huff’s email address is