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As COVID-19 related cases continue to decline in the region, MercyOne Northeast Iowa updated visitation restrictions recognizing the ongoing desire to keep patients and colleagues safe while allowing visitors, especially when they play a key role in the health and well-being of a loved one who may be hospitalized or need assistance when receiving health care services.

MercyOne Northeast Iowa facilities have updated visitation restrictions as follows:

• One healthy visitor (18 or older) per patient per day that passes screening. This includes hospital patients, or a caregiver/loved one during any other type of appointment such as a surgery, test, procedure, etc. Patients will be provided with specific information when scheduling or can call their provider office for details for the various areas.

• Pediatric patients, including inpatient, outpatient clinic visits and NICU, are allowed both parents if necessary.

• Any visitor entering the building will be required to sanitize hands upon entry, have temperature checked, answer health questions and wear a mask (either their own cloth mask or a surgical mask provided).

At this time, to ensure the safety of some of our most vulnerable patients, no visitors will be allowed in the following units:

• Waterloo Inpatient Behavioral Health Care and Horizons

• Cedar Falls Senior Behavioral Health Care

• Oelwein Senior Care

All sites reserve the right to decline access to any person with any type of sickness, whether visiting a patient or accompanying a patient to an appointment or if unwilling to follow protocols for entry.

Online visitation via applications such as Zoom continue to be available for family members to connect with their hospitalized loved ones or a health care provider to receive important updates about the patient.

“This alternative has been very well received – allowing the patient to still visit with families while minimizing risk to loved ones who are staying safe at home,” said Kelly Richards, chief nursing officer for MercyOne Northeast Iowa. “It’s a great option to continue while people focus on distancing themselves from others who are sick or when driving to the hospital to visit just isn’t an option. It also allows family members to participate in meetings with health care providers to aid in making decisions.”

MercyOne desires to balance the safety of patients, visitors and colleagues while fully acknowledging the role loved ones play in the life of a patient – for ongoing care, beginning and end of life. Richards noted how challenging these decisions have been for the organization — seeking to make the safest decision and the challenges during this unconventional time. That’s why exceptions are created yet allowing final decisions to be made at the discretion of leaders based on additional circumstances related to safety.

More specific details about visitors in various areas can be found at MercyOne.org/NEIArecovery.

“We truly want to create the best experience for our patients – we just have to do it safely,” Richards added.

As a reminder, we encourage the community to follow the best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help prevent the spread of all viruses:

• Stay home if you are sick

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick

• Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze

• Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

• Disinfect surfaces and objects using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

At MercyOne, we are following guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Iowa Public Health Department to screen patients for symptoms including fever and respiratory signs as well as the patient’s travel history and exposure to those who have traveled.

If you have general questions on COVID-19, please dial 2-1-1. If you begin to experience symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, call your primary care provider before coming in. Learn more at MercyOne.org/NEIArecovery.