COVid-19 Avera St. Anthony's registered nurse Jessica Rockford, RN, left, and physician Barbara Gutshall, MD, remind the public that it takes everyone to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Avera Health announced it will require full vaccination for its physicians, employees and volunteers by Dec. 1, 2021. In O’Neill, Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital staff are reminding the public of ongoing mitigation efforts to help reduce COVID-19 spread.

“We continue to welcome visitors with a limitation of two visitors at a time for all non-COVID-positive patients,” said Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital Director of Nursing Amy Langan, MHA, BSN, RN. “We remind everyone masks continue to be required by all who enter our facility. This is especially important to protect yourself and others, as the Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to an increase of cases in our state.”

Langan said visitors are welcome between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Health screeners will check visitors when they arrive.

“Some folks might consider visiting friends at home once they have healed,” she added. “Patients need their rest, and to receive quality care while they are in the hospital.” Langan also encouraged the public to get vaccinated if they have not done so.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated.

“The study also found that unvaccinated people are about five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who are not,” Langan said. “While breakthrough infections do happen in vaccinated persons, they are uncommon. In most cases of breakthroughs, the illness is mild.”

COVID vaccines are functioning as they were designed: they are reducing hospitalizations and deaths.

“No vaccine can offer absolute protection, but the fact remains that the most effective thing people can do to prevent the spread of COVID is to get vaccinated,” said Langan.

Studies show vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of Americans – including more than 1.1 million Nebraskans, have received vaccines. About 52% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated as of Sept. 9.

Due to increased pediatric cases with the Delta variant, children ages 0-11 remain vulnerable because there is not an approved vaccine for that age group. Vaccinated adults can help protect children.

“While many hoped the pandemic was concluding last summer, it clearly is not,” said Barbara Gutshall, MD, chief of medical staff at Avera St. Anthony’s. “With the Delta variant activity, we are back in the position of seeing higher case counts and hospitalization. We’ve already experienced difficulty transferring patients to larger facilities for non-COVID medical problems.”

While cases are increasing, Avera predicts that it’s unlikely they will reach the peaks seen last fall and winter.

“Avera is prepared, using lessons learned and a number of system-wide efforts to address the recent uptick, and we hope everyone will join our efforts,” said Avera Medical Group O’Neill physician Matthew Winkelbauer, MD. “The more people who are vaccinated, the better. We also have to use common-sense measures, including hand-washing and social distancing to reduce the threat of the Delta variant.”

Learn more about Avera’s COVID-19 resources online at or call 402-336-2611.


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