Hospitals in Monroe County reopened for visitors on Thursday for the first time since they adopted zero-visitation policies in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Both Rochester Regional Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center said hundreds of people arrived at their hospitals hoping to visit patients. At Rochester General Hospital, almost 200 people showed up in just the first hour of visitation, a spokesperson said.
But the rules for visitors are strict (Rochester Regional’s full policies are here, and URMC’s are here), and both hospital systems said they were turning away people who did not meet the requirements.
No COVID-19 patients are allowed to have visitors.
Patients who can have visitors are limited to two people for their entire time in the hospital. Only one visitor per patient is allowed at a time. Everyone has to wear a mask, and visitors must register in an electronic database in case contact tracers need to track them down later.
New York state allowed hospitals to loosen their zero-visitation policies once COVID-19 cases reached a manageable level.
Administrators at the Rochester area’s two hospital systems said they needed to balance the risk of COVID-19 with the benefits of human contact for hospital patients. The administrators said as long as the epidemic remains under control in Monroe County, that balance is now tipping toward allowing visitors.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county has held steady for the last three days at levels not seen since the epidemic began accelerating in March.
On Thursday, the county public health department reported 83 people in hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, 10 of whom were on ventilators in intensive care units. At its peak late last month, the county had 195 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
One more person had died of the disease, the health department said, bringing the county’s total death toll to 266.
County public health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said if the spread of the virus picks up again, the hospital systems will need to reevaluate their visitor policies.