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Chicago-area hospitals place visitation limits as Illinois COVID-19 outbreak spreads

Several hospitals announced they will no longer allow visitors — with some exceptions — to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to their patients, caregivers and other staff.

Rush University Medical Center’s “forward triage center” for coronavirus, located in one of the hospital’s ambulance bays.
Rush University Medical Center’s “forward triage center” for coronavirus, located in one of the hospital’s ambulance bays.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Hospitals across the Chicago area have begun restricting visitors amid the state’s COVID-19 outbreak to protect the health of patients and limit the virus’ spread.

Several hospitals announced this weekend that, with few exceptions, they will no longer allow visitors in hopes of preventing the coronavirus from spreading to their patients, caregivers and other staff.

Hospitals restricting visitor access include Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, the University of Chicago Medical Center, University of Illinois Hospital and several AMITA Health centers. Exceptions would be determined on a case-by-case basis but could be made for adult visitors important to a patient’s emotional well-being, parents of pediatric patients or partners of patients in family birth centers.

“Restricting visitors is very common, for example during flu seasons,” said Danny Chun, spokesman for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association. “So each hospital has to address the needs of its patients and community and decide whether any restrictions are needed.”

For AMITA Health, that means restricting all visitors at Saint Joseph Hospital, Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, as well as medical centers in suburban Hoffman Estates, Elk Grove Village and Evanston.

Only partial restrictions — like no visitors under 18 years old, no more than two visitors per patient and no visitors with symptoms of respiratory illness — were placed at AMITA’s other facilities, according to its website.

Representatives of Stroger Hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Cook County Health posted last Wednesday that similar partial restrictions would be placed on visitors.

“This is about protecting the patients at the hospital, but also the workers and other visitors because you don’t want them to get sick either,” Chun said.

Representatives for other Chicago-area hospitals also could not be reached for comment.

The preventative measures come as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois has started growing more quickly. On Sunday afternoon, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 29 new cases, bringing the total to 93 cases in 13 counties.

Some Chicago hospitals have been preparing for months to address the coronavirus outbreak.

Chun previously urged people to remain calm while public health officials assessed the magnitude of the virus locally, adding that most patients won’t need hospitalization.

“Our hospitals are preparing, planning, holding drills, doing all kinds of preparations to address any needs,” Chun said. “Is Illinois going to be like Washington state or New York state with the clusters? We don’t know yet.”