A woman and child look at the Downtown Los Angeles skyline on March 21, 2020 ( AFP / Apu Gomes)

Posts claim children with COVID-19 must go to hospitals alone

Copyright AFP 2017-2020. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts claim a child who is infected with the novel coronavirus will be taken to a hospital unaccompanied. This is misleading; many hospitals have prohibited visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even facilities in heavily-affected states have exceptions allowing a parent or caregiver to be with pediatric patients.

“Biggest wake up call ever if your child gets this virus their going to hospital alone in a van with people they don’t know to a room they don’t know to be with people they don’t know You will be alone at home without them in their time of need,” a March 26, 2020 Facebook post says.

A screenshot of the text shown in the Facebook post taken on April 21, 2020

Although each hospital in the US decides on its own visitor guidelines, consent must be obtained from the patient’s parent or legal guardian under most state laws before treating a minor, or person under age 18.

A review of visitation guidelines from major hospitals and health care providers in some of the states that are hardest hit by COVID-19 found they are still allowing a guardian to accompany a minor to the hospital. 

New York state is at the epicenter of the fast-spreading pandemic in the United States, accounting for more than 57,000 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

At the New York-Presbyterian hospital, pediatric patients are allowed to be accompanied by one adult caregiver. NYU Langone health care facilities allow pediatric patients “up to two approved visitors, limited to parents, guardians, or family care partners.”

Restricting visitors is necessary as the virus is mainly transmitted by respiration and physical contact, and a patient can already be contagious even before the first symptoms appear.

With over 7,500 hospitalized patients, New Jersey is the state with the second most hospitalizations in the United States due to the disease. 

The Atlantic Health System, which owns six health care facilities in New Jersey, has also implemented a no-visitor policy, with some exceptions, including one “visitor/support person for pediatric patients.”

California has currently more than 4,800 hospitalizations for COVID-19, and various healthcare facilities in the state have adopted extra safety measures.

Los Angeles County Health Services suspended “all non-essential patient visitors,” but confirmed by phone that a parent or guardian can accompany a minor.

UCSF Health medical centers in San Francisco are currently applying similar restrictions, but require one caregiver for each pediatric patient.

Illinois currently has more than 4,700 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Northwestern Medicine, which owns 10 hospitals across Chicago, adopted a no-visitor policy with a series of exceptions, including for pediatric patients. 

Florida currently has more than 4,400 hospitalizations due to COVID-19. The University of Miami Health System says on its website that no visitors “are allowed to accompany patients in any UHealth facilities,” except for “pediatric patients and patients who are at end of life,” who are allowed one visitor at a time following a screening protocol. 

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a preliminary description of pediatric cases in the US on April 10, 2020, saying “relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath.”

While novel coronavirus infections in children were mainly mild, it is thought that they may be capable of spreading the disease to older people at greater risk of serious illness.

AFP Fact Check has debunked more than 350 examples of misinformation about the novel coronavirus crisis. A complete list of our fact checks on the topic in English can be found here.

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