New Jersey medical facilities trying to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus are moving to all but close their doors to most visitors.

The state's hospitals on Friday evening announced the policy limiting visits to patients except in limited circumstances, such as an end-of-life situation or allowing just one support person for child, maternity or surgery patients.

The move follows visitor restrictions set earlier in the week at the state's psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes.

New Jersey as of Friday had 50 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, a number that had doubled overnight. New Jersey has had one death from the virus, a 69-year-old man who had other underlying medical conditions.

“With a growing number of cases and evidence of community transmission, the standard policy now bars visitors with some limited exceptions,” New Jersey Hospital Association President and CEO Cathy Bennett said. “These updated guidelines are voluntary, but are informed by the support and feedback of hospital CEOs and more than 270 clinicians from hospital and post-acute facilities who joined NJHA on a conference call today.”

The standardized policy:

  • No hospital visitors will be allowed until further notice.

Limited exceptions include:

  • Patients in hospice or end-of-life care
  • One visitor/support person for maternity patients
  • One visitor/support person for pediatric patients
  • One visitor/support person for an individual undergoing same-day surgery or an ambulatory procedure.
  • Visitors who meet these exceptions will be screened for symptoms before being allowed to visit.

Symptoms of the virus range from mild to severe and include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Most of the fatal victims worldwide have been older adults with other health ailments. There is no vaccine and doctors can only treat the symptoms of the disease.

Authorities have been trying to slow down the spread in order to avoid overwhelming the state's medical facilities, which only have about 700 specialized beds to treat patients suffering from serious COVID-19 symptoms.

Agencies have moved onto more dramatic measures — such as recommending that events with more than 250 people be canceled or postponed — after evidence indicated that the virus had begun to spread without trace in communities rather than just contact with known infected individuals.

Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health state of emergency on March 9. Since then, hundreds of school districts have closed for several days while dozens have already made plans to remain closed and conduct remote and online learning for weeks.

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