SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sanford Health is loosening its restrictions on visitors, put in place to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

The health system's new policy, effective Wednesday, May 20, allows one adult visitor with each patient at hospitals and clinics, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Visitors will be screened for COVID-19 according to to current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are expected to wear a cloth or surgical mask at all times.

The policy change is only for Sanford's hospitals and clinics, and does not include its long-term care facilities, which remain closed to all visitors.

Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health includes 44 hospitals, 482 clinics and more than 200 senior care facilities, with major medical centers located in Sioux Falls, Fargo, and Bemidji, Minn.

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The changes mark an almost two month-long ban on allowing most visitors to Sanford Health hospitals and clinics. On March 26, the health system said no visitors would be allowed, with narrow exceptions for births, end-of-life care and children and adults requiring assistance.

“We’ve taken a strong stand against COVID-19 to keep our patients and employees safe during this pandemic,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer of Sanford Health, in a news release. “Because we’ve done that, including masking employees in hospitals and clinics, we can now have each patient have a friend or family member by their side in their times of need.”

The new rules mirror those first instituted by the health system on March 13, soon after the first COVID-19 cases appeared in the region. Those rules allowed only one visitor per patient, and required the visitor be an immediate family member.

Good Samaritan Society, the long-term care provider that is part of Sanford Health, restricted visitors on March 10. Those restrictions continue.

Sanford's change in visitor policy does not apply to its COVID-19 specific units, which continue to have tight restrictions on visitors.

Sanford Health officials continue to request that those not feeling well — with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath — should not visit the clinic in person but call their health care provider for assistance.