Your local hospital could soon take on a new policy that aims to clear up any confusion surrounding your ability to visit patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital leaders in the state, along with the New Jersey Hospital Association, have partnered to develop color codes based on the level of COVID-19 risk, that would ideally be used by medical institutions statewide.

"Our hospitals recognize how difficult it is for patients when they are isolated from their families and support systems," NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett said. "Our goal with this color-level visitation policy is to create transparency and consistency, using a data-driven formula that continues to put the safety of patients and staff first and foremost."

Determining where hospitals land on the three-level spectrum is based on four key metrics: COVID-19 levels in the community; the level of hospitalized COVID-19 patients; staffing levels; and availability of personal protective equipment.

The codes, though, would not be applied hospital to hospital. To provide greater consistency, color levels would be applied to regions of the Garden State — for example, hospitals in Northeast New Jersey would all be considered to be under the same "threat."

No matter the color-code at the time, hospitals would not be permitting visitors for COVID-19 patients or those who are immunocompromised, except for circumstances approved by a care team.

Level Green (lower level of COVID-19 risk)

  • Visitors are permitted, with some limits. Some patients may have two visitors at a time, but must follow requirements on masking, symptom screening and other precautions.

Level Yellow

  • Patients can have one visitor at a time, following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Level Red (higher level of COVID-19 risk)

  • No visitors are allowed. Exceptions may apply to pediatrics, labor and delivery, end of life, and other areas.

"This visitation policy strikes the right balance of allowing for safe visitation for patients who are not immune-compromised while restricting visits in areas of high community spread and limited PPE and staffing," said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

The policy is voluntary, but according to NJHA spokesperson Kerry McKean Kelly, it's had a great response from hospitals.

Color-coding language was spotted on Inspira Health's and Capital Health's websites Tuesday afternoon. Hospitals looking to adopt the policy will need to update their websites each Thursday with the latest color level.

The policy also includes uniform requirements for hospital visitors, such as an age minimum of 18, and COVID-19 safety protocols.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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