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Coronavirus Update: Area Hospital Systems Announce New Policies Restricting Visitors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hospitals are introducing strict measures to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

In many cases, access will be restricted to protect health care workers and patients. The news caught some people by surprise, CBS2's Reena Roy reported Tuesday.

"It's very stressful. It's very disappointing," Queens resident George Harden said. "I never saw anything like this the whole 62 years of my life."


Harden showed up at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem for a planned surgery Tuesday, only to find out it was cancelled.

"I'm feeling real bad they said because coronavirus is out there -- they're not having any surgeries at all," Harden said. "They didn't give me another appointment, either."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said elective surgeries take up 25-35% of hospital beds, and recently warned non-critical ones may need to be cancelled.

Many hospitals are also updating policies when it comes to visitors. Starting Tuesday, the Mount Sinai Health System is restricting access to visitors at all of their hospital and ambulatory sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Exceptions include: one healthy partner in maternity, and one at a time in end-of-life care and pediatric intensive care. All of those visitors must be 15 years or older and show no signs of the coronavirus, like fever and cough, officials said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text 692692 | Westchester Testing Call 1(888)-364-3065 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Case Tracker | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

Northwell Health System said aside from pediatrics and hospice care, visitation per patient is limited to one adult age 18 or older during a three-hour block of time per day across more than 20 of its facilities. In addition, the Atlantic Health System in New Jersey is also putting out strict limitations: No visitors, with a few exceptions.

The new guidelines with social distancing are becoming all the more important, with the White House saying the virus is about two-three times more contagious than the flu. With these evolving protocols, it's important to contact your health care provider to find out what changes have been implemented and how they affect you and your family.

President Donald Trump announced sweeping new guidelines to fight the virus, urging every American to stay home from work and school for the next 15 days, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts.

"We know that we have a large group of millennials between 25 and almost 40. They are really key to this, they are a social group. So that 'no more than 10' is very much focused on them," said White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

Trump said the virus could last through July or August.

In perhaps one of the most drastic actions to stop the virus spread, San Francisco ordered everyone to shelter in place until early April.

"The new pubic health order that we're announcing will require San Franciscans to remain at home, with exceptions only for essential outings.

It's a mass isolation of 6.7 million people, which Dr. Anthony Fauci endorses.

"The best way to address it would be doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction. It isn't an overreaction," he said.

The White House added the coronavirus is two to three times more contagious than the flu, making the new guidelines for social distancing all the more important in protecting America's most vulnerable.


Moms-to-be carrying special cargo in their bellies during these uncertain times are being urged to limit contact with others.

Dr. Richard Miller is the chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey.

"We don't have direct evidence that tells us that coronavirus acts more aggressively in pregnant women, but based on experience with the respiratory viruses they should be considered at increased risk from a viral pneumonia," Dr. Miller told CBS2's Meg Baker on Tuesday.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez says to follow all Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

"Lots of hand washing. Be careful with any visitors coming to see you because you don't really know. You should really practice isolation at home until it's really time," Gomez said.

But don't skip doctor's appointments. Once it's go time, Dr. Miller says hospitals will make sure you are safe.

"We screen them for signs, symptoms. We screen them for any recent contacts, and those that have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are a person under investigation are then placed in one of our labor rooms separate from general population," Miller said.

Maternity units are only allowing one support person for the birth. Once your little bundle of joy arrives doctors suggest holding off on visitors.

"Until this thing really blows over, especially with a newborn, because a newborn doesn't have that much of their own immune system. Their immunity really is coming from mom with breastfeeding," Gomez said.

"Family visitations can take place afterwards. They should use social media and things like Facetime," Miller said.

Miller said it is still not clear whether or not coronavirus can be passed from mother to fetus, because the virus is so new and the case study of pregnant women is so limited.

In China, of the nine women documented who had coronavirus in last trimester, all delivered healthy children and they, themselves, recovered.

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