Rising COVID activity has led to the return of visitation restrictions for hospitals in some parts of New Jersey.
A new CDC study shows that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death, but protection against asymptomatic, mild, and moderate disease may decrease over time. On August 18, 2021, U.S. Health and Human Services public health and medical experts announced a plan to begin offering COVID-19 mRNA vaccine booster shots this fall.
Under color-coded visitation guidelines adopted across the state’s hospitals, the Southeast and Southwest regions of the state are now at level yellow.
Level yellow generally allows hospitalized patients to receive just one visitor at a time, with precautions such as masking and symptom screening.
However, COVID patients and those who are immunocompromised are not allowed visitors except under certain circumstances, such as care being provided to pediatric patients or patients with an intellectual, developmental, or other cognitive disability.
Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally, including within the United States.
Currently, four variants are classified as a variant of concern (VOC), but officials estimate that greater than 93 percent of the cases in New Jersey can be attributed to the Delta variant.
New Jersey’s visitation color codes were developed by the New Jersey Hospital Association in November 2020. The visitation levels are reassessed weekly based on COVID-19 levels in the community and hospital capacity within the region.
Until this month, all four of the state’s regions have been in level green, which generally allows two visitors at a time, since mid-May.
The system is designed to limit COVID spread and protect those within the hospital, while also providing uniformity for patients and their loved ones. Additional information on the color codes is available at http://www.njha.com/coronavirus/hospital-visitation-codes .
“The added visitation precautions are triggered by the rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations across New Jersey, attributable to the highly contagious Delta variant and individuals who are not yet vaccinated,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett.
From mid-July to mid-August, New Jersey data shows a 7-day average increase of 271.6 percent in new cases and 168.5 percent in hospitalizations. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, the Delta variant accounts for 96 percent of cases, based on a sampling of positive tests from the last two weeks of July.
“The current trajectory of new infections shows some of the fastest spread of COVID that we have seen since the spring of 2020,” said Bennett. “The new variants are more contagious. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19 and avoid further impact to our schools and businesses, as well as our patients, visitors and healthcare professionals.”
The Southeast region includes the counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean, while the Southwest region spans Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. Patients and visitors are encouraged to confirm with their hospital any added visitation rules, screening or precautions in place.
“Vaccines remain the most powerful tool we have against COVID-19, making it critical that all people get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible,” according to the CDC. “To find a vaccine provider near you, visit vaccines.gov or your state or local public health department.”