A spike in COVID-19 activity around the state has sparked tougher restrictions on visitors at hospitals in about half of the state’s 21 counties.

The southeast region — Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties — and the southwest region — Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties — both have returned to level yellow, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Under the three-level color-coded guidelines, yellow generally allows hospitalized patients to receive just one adult visitor at a time, with precautions such as masking and symptom screening.

However, visitors are not allowed for COVID-19 patients or those who are immunocompromised, except under circumstances approved by the care team.

Those cases include care being provided to pediatric patients or patients with an intellectual, developmental, or other cognitive disability.

“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,” NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett said in a written release.

State data shows a 7-day average increase of 271.6% in new cases and 168.5% in hospitalizations from mid-July to mid-August.

The delta variant accounts for 96% of cases, based on a sampling of positive tests from the last two weeks of July, according to state health officials.

New Jersey’s hospital visitation color codes were developed last November. The levels are reassessed weekly, based on COVID-19 levels in the community and hospital capacity within the region.

From mid-May until this month, all four of the state’s regions had been at level green, which generally allows two visitors at a time.

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