ESCANABA — To protect patients, family members and staff during this time of increased upper respiratory illness activity, OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group is reducing the number of support persons permitted in its facility and continuing to restrict visitors.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of cases associated with upper respiratory illnesses, including influenza, COVID-19 and RSV.” said Nicole Pirlot, RN, infection preventionist with OSF St. Francis Hospital. “Therefore, we must take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.”

Support persons will continue to be permitted with the following guidelines, effective immediately. Those who accompany a patient to an appointment, procedure or if hospitalized are permitted under the following guidelines:

– Support persons need to be 18 years of age or older.

– Support persons are to be free from any symptoms of COVID-19, influenza, RSV or any other respiratory tract or contagious illness.

– Masks are required to be worn by all who enter the building, regardless of vaccination status.

– Up to two support persons permitted at one time during a patient’s stay or visit. To reduce the number of exposures the support persons must remain the same for the duration of the patient’s entire stay or visit, they are not able to rotate or change.

– Support persons should use appropriate protective gear, perform hand hygiene and uphold safety precautions during their visit.

– Support persons are to limit their movement throughout the building.

These guidelines apply to the hospital, Emergency Department, Medical Office Building and off-site clinics. Anyone who is comfortable and able to attend an appointment without a support person is encouraged to do so to help limit traffic throughout the facility.

“Delta County remains in the high category for COVID-19 transmission according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and we are also seeing influenza and RSV spreading in the county,” said Pirlot.

With all upper respiratory illnesses, the best practices to avoid the spread of these contagious and easily transmitted diseases include:

– Washing hands often with soap and running warm water for at least 20 seconds. That is as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Make sure to clean under the fingernails also.

– If a hand washing station is not available, use hand sanitizer properly. Gels, rubs, and hand wipes work well against most respiratory viruses if they contain at least 60% alcohol. Throw wipes in the trash after use.

– Coughing or sneezing into upper shirt sleeve or elbow – not onto hands!

– Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. That’s how germs enter the body.

– Avoid close contact with others, such as kissing, shaking hands, sharing cups and eating utensils.

– Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches and mobile devices.

“With the prevalence of community-spread upper respiratory illnesses and the holidays upon us, it is a good time to revisit and remind everyone to do their part to prevent even further spread of these viruses,” said Pirlot. “That starts with staying home if you are sick and remaining home until fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines and that other symptoms are improving.”

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