Avera announces COVID-19 protocol

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Press Release) – As COVID-19 cases have now been reported in this region, Avera reminds the general public of what they need to know concerning this virus.

COVID-19 symptoms and testing

People who utilize Avera facilities for their health care who feel they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are displaying symptoms are asked to call 1-877-AT-AVERA (1-877-282-8372), or their local clinic number.

Symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, cough and shortness of breath. Not everyone who contracts this virus will become seriously ill, in fact 80% of people can be treated at home.

“It’s important to call 1-877-AT-AVERA, or the phone number of your local clinic, first rather than going directly to your clinic in order to protect other patients and staff,” said Todd Forkel, Regional President and CEO, Avera St. Luke’s Hospital. “Avera has set up processes for testing that will limit exposure to staff and other patients. If a provider determines that someone needs testing, we will refer patients to the correct site for testing.”

Employers and businesses are asked to not require a provider’s note for employees who are sick with respiratory illness to validate their illness or return to work. This is because health care facilities are extraordinarily busy during this time. Per this guideline from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Avera is not providing sick notes.


Avera is not currently allowing visitors to long-term care centers (nursing homes) as individuals in long-term care are at high risk of COVID-19. Consult with your local facility for patients who are in hospice or end-of-life care.

Avera hospitals, including Avera St. Luke’s Hospital, will allow only one visitor at a time per patient. Also at Avera clinics, visitors are limited to one critical visitor for each patient. Additional visitors will be asked to return to their vehicle and not wait in the waiting room. Anyone with obvious symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing, will not be allowed to visit.

“This policy is for the protection of everyone,” Forkel said. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it.

Protect yourself and your loved ones

Here’s how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • If you are sick, limit close contact with others as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Practice social distancing by avoiding crowds and limiting physical contact, i.e., shaking hands or hugging.

“This is a challenging time for our community, our state, our nation and even our world. Please stay informed about COVID-19 and practice these guidelines. As your local health care provider, we at Avera will continue to work hard to prevent the spread of this virus and deliver high quality care for those who become ill or need health services for other conditions. We want to thank our staff and our community members for your support,” said Forkel.

For additional information on COVID-19, please go to Avera.org/COVID-19.