Why can't I visit my loved one?

One of the most distressing ways COVID-19 has changed people’s lives is that many hospitals have either reduced the number of visitors allowed inside or eliminated visitors entirely. For those who are sick themselves, or who have a loved one in the hospital, it can feel isolating and scary for hospitals not to allow visitors. It is normal and healthy to want to be with loved ones in times of illness.

Hospitals do not make these decisions lightly. Doctors must balance the risk of infection to patients who are hospitalized with something other than COVID-19, and the risk to visitors of getting COVID-19, against the benefits of permitting visitors. Hospital rooms are small and it is difficult to keep 6 feet apart. People who are already sick in the hospital may have less ability to fight off COVID-19. And we know that people can spread coronavirus even before they feel symptoms.

If you have a loved one who is sick in the hospital, you can expect that the care team (doctors, nurses, and others) will communicate regularly with a point person about how your loved one is doing. Since you cannot be by their side, the care team will help as much as possible for you to stay in touch by phone, video chat, and other means. If your loved one would appreciate a visit from a hospital chaplain or clergy member, these can often be arranged.

Severe restriction or elimination of hospital visits is among the very harshest effects of this virus’s spread, and we expect that this piece is, at best, a very small comfort. But we hope that you might take solace in the knowledge that doctors and nurses everywhere are doing all that they can to help patients recover, and to keep as many people safe and healthy as possible.

Reviewed by: ERS, JAB

Last updated: 3/29/2020 at 3:58pm ET