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Georgia lawmakers propose bill to reunite families in nursing homes and hospitals during pandemic

The bill will allow patients up to two visitors for two hours.

MACON, Ga. — Across the country, hospitals and long-term care providers have banned visitation to stop the spread of COVID-19. Georgia lawmakers are proposing a bill to reunite families with their sick and elderly loved ones.

The last time Gale Murkerson spoke to her 26-year-old daughter Emily was through a phone.

“She said, ‘Mom, I don’t feel good. Can I call you back?”

Emily had been at a hospital in Daytona Beach for a week after getting hit by a car.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Murkerson had only been able to see her once.

“This bill is not going to save her, but it will make it where there won’t be another family that’s in this situation,” said Murkerson.

The newly-proposed "Right to Visit Act" will make it so family or friends can see a patient during a declared public health emergency.

If passed, a max of two guests will be able to visit a hospital or long-care term facility for at least two hours a day.

People like Janice Davis think it’s a bad idea. Her 84-year-old mother suffers from advanced stage Alzheimer’s and is currently at the Oaks Nursing Home in Marshallville.

“I want to see my mom at all costs, but I don't want to take that chance,” said Davis.

Davis is a COVID-19 survivor and knows the risk of exposing others.

“I would hope that they would protect the residents -- protect them at all costs.”

Dublin Representative Matt Hatchett is one of the sponsors of the bill.

He thinks there’s a way to allow visitors again, but in a safe way.

“A person wrote me and the last thing they said was, ‘Isolation kills, too,’ and they’re so right,” said Hatchett.

The bill will allow facilities to set up their own guidelines for visitors, like requiring rapid COVID-19 tests, wearing masks and social distancing.