EDMONTON -- At a time when Albertans are already being told to physically distance, the distance between hospital patients and their loved-ones has grown as Alberta restricts visitors at hospitals and long-term care homes.

On Saturday, the parking lot outside of University of Alberta’s Hospital transformed into a sort of waiting room. A place for Jaime Fernandez to sit in his car and to be close to his son who he drove to the ER because the Crohn’s patient wasn’t feeling well. Across the street, Rahima Remtulla waited for her mother’s 2.5 hour treatment to finish up. She usually joins her inside but because of COVID-19, she’s not allowed.

"It’s not really a very comfortable position. I’m outside. He’s inside," Fernandez said. "I don’t know what’s going on."

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Friday that effective immediately, most people are banned from visiting hospitals and long-term care homes, as well as supportive living, congregate living, Hospice Care and Acute care. Exceptions are being made for maternity care, patients who are children or visitors wishing to see a patient who is dying. 

"As we see additional cases we know there is community transmission happening, especially in our large centres. It becomes ever more important than we are minimizing the change that someone may unwittingly bring in the virus to a hospital," Hinshaw said. 

For Jason Desjarlais, the ban means he can no longer visit his 15-year old son who is an adolescent mental health ward at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. 

"The reason he’s in there has been a tough enough reason but now not being able to see him every day, it hurts," Desjarlais said. 

Desjarlais said he understands why precautions are there, and he always knew this was a possibility but was hoping it wouldn’t happen. At this point in time, he said the ward only allows phone calls, but he’s asking the staff at the ward whether it’s possible for his son to use a tablet or a phone to communicate with his family. 

"Hopefully if everyone does what they’re supposed to do, this will be over sooner than later because I couldn’t imagine doing this long term. If he continues to be in the hospital and we don’t have access. It’ll be extremely difficult."

"We know this will be difficult and disappointing news to Albertans," said Kerry Williamson, spokesperson with Alberta Health Services. "Together, we continue to make these difficult decisions in order to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe from illness."