SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Sanford Health system is restricting visits to all of its healthcare facilities across its entire upper Midwest footprint due to the coronavirus, effective Friday, March 13.

Under the new policy, Sanford Health will restrict visitors to immediate family members only and only allow one visitor per patient. Family members who visit a Sanford Health facility will be screened for respiratory illness symptoms and asked about recent travel.

Access to facilities will be limited to only a few specific entry points. The goal is to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, the Sioux Falls-based health system announced in a news release Thursday, March 12.

“The patients who enter our doors become family, and we will continue to look out for each other during this time,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer for Sanford Health, in the release. “It is important that we all do our part to prevent this illness from spreading in our communities by practicing good hygiene and staying home if we are sick. Let’s continue to take care of each other.”

The new visitor policy follows guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Sanford.

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The decision comes amid a wave of newly discovered and confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sanford's Upper Midwest footprint. As of Thursday at 3 p.m., South Dakota had eight cases of the virus and Minnesota had nine known cases. North Dakota had a single case.

The move mirrors those instituted earlier this week by the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the senior care provider which is part of Sanford Health, following recommendations from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.

Sanford Health includes 44 hospitals and is mainly located in the upper Midwest. The Good Samaritan Society includes 380 locations in 26 states.

Sanford's decision is one many health systems are making across the nation as newly available testing has revealed hundreds of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, leading to a wave of canceled events and restrictions on large assemblies of people. As of Thursday at 3 p.m., there were more than 1,300 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. with at least 38 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

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