Coronavirus - Hospital Visitation

Coronavirus - Hospital Visitation

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Hospital Visitation for Patients with Disabilities

*This page updated on March 9, 2020

Produced by: Disability Rights California and Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Some doctors and hospitals have rules limiting visitors because of COVID-19. The State of California has sent a Letter1 to hospitals about these rules. The Letter says that people with disabilities sometimes need to bring a support person with them to the hospital. A copy of this Letter is at the end of this document. Read on to learn about your legal rights.

Patients with Disabilities Can Have a Support Person with Them When Needed for Equal Care

  • Many patients with disabilities need a support person when they are in the hospital.
    • Hospitals and doctors must give all people with disabilities the “reasonable modifications” they need to get equal care.
    • “Reasonable modifications” are changes that disabled people need to get equal care. One example is to let you have a support person with you in the hospital.
    • A support person can help you in different ways like:
      • talk or communicate with others.
      • get around your room and the hospital.
      • feel better and less worried.
      • with things like eating and staying clean
      • plan for your care after you leave the hospital.
    • The support person can be your personal care attendant, a family member, a friend, or other caregiver.
  • The State of California recommends that up to two visitors or support persons, whether or not they are from the same home, should be able to visit patients with disabilities.

The Support Person Can’t Be Sick and Must Wear a Mask

  • Your support person must not have COVID-19 or any signs of being sick with COVID-19. The hospital or doctor is allowed to check support persons for COVID-19.
  • Your support person must follow the rules about personal protective equipment. This is sometimes called “PPE” for short.
    • Masks and gloves are examples of personal protective equipment. Your support person must wear personal protective equipment if the hospital or doctor tells them to.
    • Your support person should bring their own mask and gloves.  If your support person does not have their own, they should ask for some at the visitor check-in area.
  • Your support person must stay at least 6 feet away from other visitors from a different home and the hospital workers.

The Support Person Must Show Proof of Vaccination or a Negative COVID-19 Test

  • Your support person must show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Your support person may use a photo of the vaccine card that they were given when getting the vaccine, or other proof from a doctor.
  • If your support person is not vaccinated for COVID-19, or it has been less than two weeks since they got all the shots needed to be vaccinated (2 shots for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, 1 shot for Johnson and Johnson), they must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
    • The negative COVID-19 test must be taken within one day of when they visit if they use  antigen tests (rapid test).
    • The negative COVID-19 test must be taken within two days of when they visit if they use PCR tests.
  • Your support person may not have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test during urgent situations, but will still need to provide this proof as soon as possible.

Patients with Disabilities Can Have Video and Phone Calls, With Help and Extra Time if Needed

  • You can have video and phone calls using phones or tablets or computers.
  • You may need help to use a phone, computer, tablet or other device. This help could include:
    • A staff person to help you use a phone, tablet, or computer.
    • A larger screen or a videophone or something else for your disability.
    • Extra time with a computer or other device that the hospital owns and lets patients use.

Rules about Visitors Should be Public

  • Hospitals and doctors should tell you and your family all of their rules for visitors. The rules should talk about support persons for people with disabilities. The rules should also talk about PPE like masks or gloves.
  • Hospital and doctors should put up signs about visitors at the building, in parking lots, and where you enter. They should post their rules online and should make sure that you can understand these rules.

How to File a Complaint if You Are Not Allowed to Bring a Support Person

We are Here to Help

Disability Rights California and DREDF are here to help. If you or someone you know have problems with access to your support person or making online or phone visits, please contact us.

Disability Rights California
Phone: 1-800-776-5746

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Phone: (510) 644-2555  

Supporting Documents