STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
If a child contracts COVID-19 and is hospitalized, will they be separated from their parent while they are treated? No, that's not true. Neither the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the World Health Organization has recommended children be separated from a guardian while being treated.
A meme widely shared on social media, including this Facebook post (archived here) published on March 25, 2020, warns parents to keep their children at home, saying if a child contracts the virus they will be alone at the hospital. It begins:
"Biggest wake up call ever
If your child gets this virus
Their going to the hospital alone
In a van with people they don't know
To a room they don't know"
Users on social media saw the following:
The meme appears to have surfaced as a number of states and municipalities enacted stay-at-home orders, calling on people to stay at home for 14 days in an effort to "flatten the curve."
While government officials and medical experts have called on people to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, children are not being forceablely separated from a parent or guardian if they need to be admitted to the hospital.
Guidelines vary from hospital to hospital, state to state, but nearly all appear to be following the American Hospital Association's recommendations to limit visitors. The CDC also has recommended the limitation of visitors, as well as their movement within hospitals.
At Seattle Children's Hospital, in the heart of the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state, only one primary guardian per patient is being allowed in the hospital. No other visitors are allowed.
A spot-check at hospitals around the country, including ones in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Denver and Washington D.C., show similar procedures are in place.
A spokeswoman for Prisma Health, a chain of hospitals based in South Carolina, told Lead Stories:
At Prisma Health Children's Hospitals, children are allowed to have one parent or caregiver with them and can switch off once a day. They are being given meals so they don't have to leave the room since they are there to support and comfort their children.
The exception appears to be with women giving birth who are diagnosed with COVID-19.
The CDC has said it is unknown whether newborns are at "increased risk for severe complications."
The CDC said:
To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the the mother to the newborn, facilities should consider temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a (persons under investigation) from her baby until the mother's transmission-based precautions are discontinued."
The CDC added the risks and benefits of temporary separation of mother and baby should be discussed with the mother by the healthcare team.
The American Hospital Assocation and the American Academy of Pediatrics did not immediately return telephone messages and emails from Lead Stories seeking comment. But we will update the story if and when we hear back.
2020-03-27T00:46:09Z 2020-03-27T00:46:09ZUpdate 8:30pET Thursday, March 26, 2020: adding quote from Prisma Health in S.C. saying their hospitals allow 1 parent with each child COVID-19 patient.