MARSHALL (KMHL) – Local hospitals in southwest Minnesota are making more changes as COVID-19 continues to spread in Minnesota and across the country.

Avera Medical Group is announcing additional changes that begin this week at Avera facilities in Marshall, Tyler, lake Benton, Ivanhoe, Granite Falls and at the Hendricks Community Hospital Association this week.

According to a press release from Avera, clinics in these communities are developing separate well care and ill care areas to try and limit contact between individuals with any upper respiratory illness and those seeking care for routine, scheduled appointments.

Avera says any patients with upper respiratory symptoms including sore throat, sinus congestion, cough, shortness of breath or fever that has started in the last two weeks will be seen in an ill care area.

“We know this may be difficult for families. We feel this is the best decision to safeguard the health of patients, staff and the community,” said Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center’s Regional President/CEO, Mary Maertens. “Please know that this is temporary.”

Avera says in some locations that will involve using a separate entrance and patients with scheduled appointments will receive details by phone.

In addition, heightened visitor limits are being implemented in the facilities beginning Monday to protect patients, staff and the community. Avera says visitors will not be allowed in the hospital setting or emergency department – with the exception for childbirth, pediatrics, and end-of-life care. Visitors should not accompany patients to the clinic except in cases where a parent or guardian is bringing a child to an appointment.

“We’re asking for our communities’ understanding and cooperation with these precautions. The health and safety of our community and our staff are of top concern,” said Maertens.