Several Twin Cities hospitals preparing to ease visitor restrictions, as frustrations grow

An empty hospital bed.

As Minnesota turns the dial and continues to reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, many hospitals still have strict visitor policies in place.

"You know you get so excited to see a new six-pound baby girl and it was just killing us to not be able to go in there to see her," said Lloyd Keller, who has been unable to visit family in the hospital.

When his first granddaughter was born this week, Keller of Circle Pines wasn’t allowed to see her. The hospital where she was born only allows one visitor a day, that visitor being the baby’s father. 

"My problem is not letting family in while all these different staff can come and go," said Keller.

In the same week, Keller’s mother ended up in the ICU fighting for her life. He was again told he couldn’t come in.

"And if I have to prove I’m vaccinated—I even brought my card with and they didn’t ask for it, they said it didn’t matter," said Keller.

Some hospitals are not only allowing only one visitor, but are ruling that it must be the same visitor for the entire hospital stay. 

Another family told FOX 9 their premature baby hasn’t met their grandparents since being born early this year, but is allowed to be held by volunteers. The hospital stated their volunteers are regularly screened for COVID-19 and are an integral part of the health system.

"We absolutely understand the critical importance of having loved ones around you," said Dr. Rahul Koranne, President and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association. "We do have to balance that though with the number of COVID patients and the prospect of spreading COVID to some of our most vulnerable patients."

Koranne says as vaccination rates increase and hospitalizations dwindle, Minnesotans can expect to see those restrictions eased.

"Many of our hospitals are in fact easing restrictions," said Koranne. 

Several metro hospitals told FOX 9 to expect an update to visitor guidelines in the coming weeks. 

"We will make a decision on loosening visitor restrictions at our hospitals and clinics when we believe we can do so safely," read a statement from M Health Fairview. "Which we expect will happen in the next few weeks."

Thursday, Essentia Health in Duluth announced it will now allow two visitors per patient, citing decreasing positivity rates in the community. 

But for Keller, the time he has lost is something he says he can’t get back.

"If only one person can come see them, how much time are they sitting up there all by themselves?" asked Keller.