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With COVID surging, Essentia Health prohibits visitors for most adult inpatients, ER patients

The new rules apply to clinics and hospitals in NE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin

There are now strict visitor limits at Essentia Health's hospitals and clinics in northeast Minnesota, the result of climbing COVID cases in the region.

The Duluth-based health system announced the new rules Monday afternoon, saying the limitations are "due to increasing COVID-19 patient volumes." The decision comes just a couple of weeks after CentraCare reinstituted similar measures across its hospitals in central and southwest Minnesota.

Essentia Health's revised visitor rules went into effect Tuesday, and apply to clinics and hospitals from northwest Wisconsin, through northeast Minnesota and west to Brainerd are included. (We've provided a full list below.)

What are the new restrictions?

Most adult inpatients and adult emergency department patients will not be able to be accompanied by any visitors, period. The only exceptions are for vulnerable adults, or those who need someone to communicate to doctors and nurses on their behalf.

Related: DECC will double its COVID-19 testing capacity

Essentia is also adding limits to labor and delivery areas. A birth partner is permitted, and a certified doula will be allowed during labor. Otherwise, no visitors. 

Similar rules apply to surgery patients, who can have one adult visitor there in the pre- and post-surgery space. 

"The move allows us to better protect our patients and staff from potential COVID-19 exposure," Essentia Health's announcement reads. 

There are restrictions for pediatric patients as well, though they're looser. In general, two caregivers will be allowed with the child in most clinic and hospital settings. 

Essentia Health said it would continue to monitor the situation and make changes to the policies as needed. 

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Northeast Minnesota, like much of the state, is currently faced with surging COVID numbers, with the return to in-person schooling partially to blame.

St. Louis County, home to Duluth, saw 2,117 reported cases in Septembers, the highest figure since last December, according to the county’s department of health. Deaths are down, however — seven last month compared to 97 in December 2020, when the vaccine was not available. 

Still, a surge of COVID hospitalizations can have knock-on effects for other hospital services too, as evidenced in other parts of the country where some providers are having to ration care. 

Here is the list of Essentia clinics and hospitals where the newly announced visitor rules are now in effect:

  • Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior
  • Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center
  • Essentia Health-Duluth
  • Essentia Health-Deer Rive
  • Essentia Health-Moose Lake
  • Essentia Health-Northern Pines (Aurora)
  • Essentia Health-Sandstone
  • Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center
  • Essentia Health-Virginia
  • Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital

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