New Jersey hospitals and the New Jersey Hospital Association have created a standardized visitation policy based on coronavirus risk levels in surrounding communities.
The color-coded risk levels also consider the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, staffing levels and supplies of masks, gloves and gowns.
The policy is meant to balance the support that visitors can supply with the safety of patients and staff.
Hospitals in the state have been assigned to four regions that will have red, yellow or green visitation codes. Everyone will start at the yellow level, which limits most patients without COVID-19 to one visitor at a time. Individual hospitals can move to red if numbers are especially high in the neighborhoods they serve, but they have agreed not to relax the rules.
Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties are in the Southeast region. Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties are in the Southwest region.
The new program goes into effect next week. Visitors, who will be required to wear protective equipment and be monitored for fever, will want to check regulations before heading for the hospital.
At all three levels, COVID-19 and immunocompromised patients cannot have visitors unless the care team approves them. Exceptions include people who are dying or have cognitive disabilities as well as women in labor.
During the green phase, most patients can have two visitors at a time. In the red phase, no visitors are allowed, with limited exceptions for children, pregnant women, patients at the end of life and those with cognitive problems.