New Jersey hospitals begin banning most visitors as COVID cases rise

One of the largest hospital groups in the country is again severely restricting the number of visitors as the number of COVID cases continues to rise dramatically.

RWJBarnabas Health announced Thursday that starting Sunday, the day after Christmas, almost all visitors with limited exceptions would be banned from its dozen hospitals and dozen other health facilities.

“The safety and well-being of our patients, visitors and employees is our top priority,” announced the company.

The move isn’t surprising considering all hospitals in Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties have already banned visitors, except in a few cases. Hospitals in all other counties, meanwhile, had the visit code yellow, which means that patients were only allowed one visitor.

The state’s hospitals reported more than 2,220 COVID patients on Thursday, a number that is steadily increasing (it was just over a thousand as of December 1). But hospital numbers this month are still about 40% lower than last December, before the COVID vaccines were widespread – and a fraction of what they were in the first spring of COVID when up to 8,000 patients received COVID treatment .

As the Delta and Omicron variants continue to spread around the world, the recent New Jersey COVID deaths have hovered around a dozen a day. Last December, five to six times as many deaths were recorded every day.

Governor Phil Murphy, one of the first to enact one of the strictest mandates at the start of the pandemic, has so far not reinstated masking requirements indoors, despite a handful of North Jersey cities having implemented their own local rules.

Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

Limited exceptions to the no-visitor rule

RWJBarnabas Health will allow limited attendance for these patients.

  • Pediatric units allow a parent or legal guardian
  • Maternity wards allow an adult visitor
  • Neonatal intensive care units can accommodate two adult visitors
  • Pediatric psychiatric patients could allow one parent

Mitigating circumstances

RWJBarnabas Health facilities will consider individual requests for visitors involving patients with these circumstances.

  • Patients in hospice or at the end of life
  • Critically unstable patients.
  • A one-time visitor for a patient undergoing an operation
  • Patients who need a medical guardian or decision maker

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