NEWARK, NJ - Visitors can return to Saint Michael's Medical Center, the hospital announced today, nearly three months after it restricted visitors in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus to patients and employees.

Saint Michael's severely restricted visitors in March as the virus that causes COVID-19 began sweeping through New Jersey. At the peak of the pandemic on April 14, more than 8,000 patients were hospitalized in the state.

Since then, the number of new cases has dramatically declined along with hospitalizations. As of July 6, 491 patients with COVID-19 were in New Jersey hospitals.

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“Our first priority is patient safety,” said Dr. Alan Sickles, the chief operating officer of Saint Michaels. “With the declining numbers of COVID-19 cases we are seeing across the state, we felt we could safely reinstate visitation at this time.”

Saint Michael's said its visitor policy follows guidelines issued by the state Department of Health.

All visitors must pass through a hospital screening station upon entering the building, which includes non-contact thermal scanning process, use hand sanitizer and wear a surgical mask while inside the hospital. If a visitor presents with fever or symptoms, they will not be allowed entry into the facility as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All visitors to the hospital must be 18 years of age or older, except in rare exceptions. Only one visitor per patient at a time is permitted between the hours of 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m. in adult inpatient acute care units.

In the Emergency Department, one visitor per patient is permitted at any time for adult patients, although two parents or guardians are permitted if the patient is a minor.

No visitors are permitted in the hospital's behavioral health adult units.

Patients getting same day surgery or procedure may have one support person prior to and after the procedure. The support person may remain with the patient through the initial intake process and may rejoin the patient for the discharge process.

Outpatients may be accompanied by one adult. Visitors may wait for the patient in the hospital or a designated waiting area (subject to physical space availability), while the patient is having his/her procedure.

Visitation for patients with confirmed COVID-19 will still be restricted to extenuating circumstances only such as hospice or end of life.

Visitors and staff are required to wear a mask in common areas of the hospital.

"The safety of our staff and patients is paramount and thermal scanning adds another layer of protection," said Nancy Bisco-Flora, the chief nursing officer of Saint Michael’s "Non-contact thermal scanning is a quick process and will be performed in addition to the COVID-19 healthcare screening questions."

All visitors must perform hand hygiene before visiting a patient and once in the hospital or facility, visitors shall remain in the patient’s room (or Emergency Department bay) as much as possible throughout the visit, except when directed by hospital or facility staff to leave during aerosol-generating procedure or other procedures in which visitors are usually asked to leave.

Saint Michael’s has developed policies and procedures to prioritize and ensure the health and safety of all patients, visitors and staff in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The hospital follows CDC protocols for cleaning and disinfecting all patient care and treatment areas. Rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between patients.

Saint Michael’s, which is a member of Prime Healthcare, has been awarded a grade of A in patient safety from the Leapfrog Group for the last four consecutive periods and a Patient Safety Excellence Award from Healthgrades for the last two years in a row.

Since May 27, Saint Michael’s has resumed patient care services to continue to safely and reliably serve its surrounding communities and provide care for all patients.

“Patients should no longer delay care which can put them at increased health risks,” Bisco-Flora said. “Through a thoughtful and structured approach and following adherence to all public health guidance and regulatory policies, Saint Michael’s is able to meet the needs of our patients.”