One of the state's largest hospital groups is once again severely restricting visitors as the number of COVID cases continues a dramatic rise.

RWJBarnabas Health said Thursday that nearly all visitors would be banned from its dozen hospitals and dozens of other healthcare facilities with limited exceptions starting Sunday, the day after Christmas.

"The safety and well-being of our patients, visitors and staff is our number one priority," the company said.

The move is not surprising considering that all hospitals in Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties already were banning visitors except in limited cases. Hospitals in all other counties, meanwhile, were on visitation code yellow, meaning that patients were only allowed one visitor.

NJ Hospital Association
NJ Hospital Association
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The state's hospitals were reporting more than 2,220 COVID patients on Thursday, a number that has been steadily rising (there were just over a thousand on Dec. 1). But this month's hospital numbers are still about 40% lower than they were last December before the COVID vaccines had been widely distributed — and a fraction of what they were during COVID's first spring, when as many as 8,000 patients were receiving COVID care.

As the delta and omicron variants continue to spread globally, recent COVID deaths in New Jersey have hovered around a dozen a day. Last year December, five to six times as many deaths were recorded each day.

Gov. Phil Murphy, one of the first governors to impose among the most stringent mandates at the start of the pandemic, has thus far not reintroduced indoor masking requirements even though a handful of cities in North Jersey have implemented their own local rules.

Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash
Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash
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Limited exceptions to no-visitor rule

RWJBarnabas Health will allow limited visitors for these patients.

  • Pediatric units will allow one parent or guardian
  • Maternity units will allow one adult visitor
  • Neonatal intensive care units will allow two adult visitors
  • Pediatric psychiatric patients could allow one parent

Extenuating circumstances

RWJBarnabas Health's facilities will consider individual requests for visitors involving patients with these circumstances.

  • Patients on hospice or at the end of life
  • Critically unstable patients.
  • A one-time visitor for a patient undergoing surgery
  • Patients who need a medical guardian or decision-maker

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