SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — One of the nation's largest not-for-profit senior care facility organizations says it is restricting visitations at all its properties to only those who need entry, effective immediately, due to the coronavirus.

Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society will restrict visitors at its skilled nursing facilities to only those "end-of-life-visit related or medically or operationally necessary," it said in a post to its website on Wednesday, March 11. It has dozens of locations in Minnesota, the Dakotas and beyond.

The post said friends and family members of residents should communicate with them through phone calls, and Facebook or video conferencing.

Any visitors will be directed to the main entrance and screened. Those with respiratory symptoms or possible exposure to the coronavirus will be kept from entering its properties.

At its assisted living, housing with services and affordable housing buildings, visits will be discouraged and visitors will be screened about their travel and health.

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In all cases, visitors allowed entry will be required to wash and sanitize their hands at entry and be advised to limit their movement within the buildings.

The moves are preventative, the organization said, and not the result of a case in its facilities of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The organization does not have a confirmed case of the illness at any of its locations, it said.

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have topped 1,000 in the U.S. in recent days as additional testing capacity has come online, and 29 deaths as of 1 p.m. Wednesday. Globally, cases of the coronavirus have topped 120,000 causing more than 4,000 deaths. On Wednesday the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic.

The Good Samaritan Society said it made the decision following recommendations from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Many other nursing home organizations around the country have been instituting similar restrictions due to the spread of the coronavirus, and its history of being particularly dangerous to seniors and those with compromised immune systems.

The Sioux Falls-based organization is part of Sanford Health. It has more than 380 locations in 24 states and 19,000 employees.