SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sanford Health is requiring its employees report some personal trips and isolate themselves for 14 days after returning from any cruise trip or travel to countries flagged by federal officials as particularly risky due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sioux Falls-based health system's restrictions joined new limits on work trips, to only travel considered essential. The travel guidelines are being implemented to slow the spread of the virus, according to a memo to all employees from Dr. Allison Suttle, Sanford's chief medical officer, sent Wednesday, March 11.

"We know many of you already have vacation plans or may be traveling for spring break," Suttle wrote. "We urge you to weigh the risks and potential consequences for yourself and others before taking these trips. This is an ever-evolving epidemic and a difficult time to predict what is happening."

Sanford Health has nearly 49,000 employees.

Effective immediately, all employees were told to report some personal travel to the health system's administrators prior to departure and before returning to work. Such travel included:

  • All cruise trips
  • International trips to countries with level 2-3 travel warnings from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC's current travel warnings have significantly expanded recently. As of 10 a.m. Friday, those destinations with level 2 or 3 warnings are: China, Iran, South Korea, most of Europe and for older adults or those with chronic health concerns: the entire globe.

"We all share the common goal of staying safe and want to thank you for your support in making good personal travel decisions," Suttle wrote. "Thank you for all you do."

The global pandemic of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, continues to worsen in the U.S. This week the number of confirmed cases topped 1,000 nationwide in more than 40 states, with more than 30 deaths. Also this week, confirmed cases of coronavirus were discovered in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and South Dakota, across the entire Sanford Health regional footprint.

Sanford Health on Friday instituted new visitor restrictions to all its facilities across its entire footprint, restricting access to only a few entry points, limiting visitors to a single family member, and requiring approved visitors get screened for health conditions and recent travel. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the senior care provider that is part of Sanford Health, also instituted new visitor restrictions this week.