Tennessee bill will prohibit hospitals from restricting loved ones from visiting patients

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A bill that has reached the Tennessee governor’s desk after making its way through the state legislature would prohibit hospitals from restricting visitor access to COVID-19 patients. 

The legislation – which is now awaiting signature from Gov. Bill Lee – also includes measures that limit mask mandates and vaccine requirements to gain entry into certain places 

“Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, during a period in which a disaster, emergency, or public health emergency for COVID-19 has been declared, a hospital shall not restrict a patient from having at least one (1) family member present with the patient during the stay in the hospital as long as the family member tests negative for COVID-19 and is not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or another virus or communicable disease,” its language states. 

An ambulance driver disinfects a stretcher after unloading a patient on Aug. 13 at a Memphis children’s hospital, after Memphis Fire Chief Gina Sweat said that emergency services were overwhelmed by numbers of coronavirus disease patients and that wait times should be expected. 
(REUTERS/Karen Pulfer Focht)


Doug Kufner, a spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton – the primary sponsor of the bill in that chamber – issued to Fox News a statement on his behalf Monday. 

“Per discussions with members serving on the conference committee and as was stated on the record during the legislative process by the bill sponsor, the intent of the legislation was to help families support their loved ones who are nearing or in end-of-life scenarios,” Kufner said. 

But Tennessee Hospital Association president and CEO Wendy Long told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that “we do have some concerns regarding a late addition to the legislation dealing with visitation for COVID patients and how that provision will ultimately be implemented.” 

A meeting of the House Public Health Committee is held Oct. 28 in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee’s General Assembly met for a special legislative session to address COVID-19 measures.
(AP/Mark Humphrey)

A spokesperson for Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate speaker, also said to the newspaper that “no one should have to face a potentially life-threatening scenario alone.” 

“If that person is tested and symptom-free, there is no reason they should not be able to care for their loved one in their time of need,” the spokesperson added. 


In Chattanooga, hospitals currently have different rules – depending on the circumstances — over whether or not people are allowed to visit coronavirus-positive patients, the Times Free Press reports. 

Tennessee resident Jarolyn Moulder is one supporter of the hospital visit provision, as her special needs son, Vincent, was in one for 23 days after catching the coronavirus last year, according to WTVC.  

“He really can’t decide for himself and things like that. He really needs a lot of care and attention,” she told the station. 

Moulder said staff at the hospital her son was staying at ultimately allowed her to remain by her son’s side, despite it being against protocol. 


“[People] have loved ones that passed away that [weren’t] able to be there in the last moment of their lives where they could talk to them and hug them,” Moulder told WTVC.  

As of Sunday, Gov. Lee is still reviewing the bill, the station adds. Fox News has reached out to Lee’s office for further comment.

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