Hackensack Meridan Heath has canceled elective surgeries at all its hospitals for two weeks to increase its capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

The decision comes after U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D. in a message on his Twitter account asked hospitals, using all capital letters, to consider stopping elective procedures, until "we can flatten the curve."

The phrase refers to spreading out the amount of people being exposed so hospitals are not overwhelmed all at once by patients needing care for the coronavirus.

The decision is in anticipation of a projected surge in cases and fully takes effect on Tuesday. Surgeries and procedures will continue to take place at Meridian's non-hospital, off-campus sites.

Adams said that elective surgeries increase the chances of COVID-19 becoming present in a hospital, deplete the supply of protective equipment and tax personnel who may be needed for a coronavirus response.

No other New Jersey healthcare networks or hospitals had made the same decision as of early Monday morning. New York mayor Bill deBlasio canceled elective surgeries at hospitals in the five boroughs.

The New Jersey Hospital Association enacted a "no visitor policy" in order to protect patients except in limited circumstances, such as an end-of-life situation or allowing just one support person for child, maternity or surgery patients.

Hackensack Meridian Health has 14 hospitals in New Jersey including Jersey Shore University Hospital in Neptune City, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Raritan Bat Medical Center Perth Amboy and Pascack Valley Medical Center.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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