Hospital visitations halted due to COVID

All visitation to St. Lawrence Health hospitals has been suspended, officials said on Tuesday, the same day that restrictions had been placed on visitation. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — All visitation to St. Lawrence Health hospitals has been suspended, officials said on Tuesday, the same day that restrictions had been placed on visitation.

They are also asking the community not to use the Emergency Room for COVID-19 testing, but instead for true emergency visits.

The suspension of visits, which took effect on Wednesday, applies to St. Lawrence Health’s Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Massena Hospital and Gouverneur Hospital.

In a statement, Jeremy Slaga, St. Lawrence Health’s senior vice president of administration, said the move was made because of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

“It is our hope that this expansive suspension on visitation is a temporary one. Cases of COVID-19 in St. Lawrence County have been rapidly increasing, and this past weekend’s hospitalizations due to the virus have risen at a rate not previously seen since January,” he said. “While our team is much better prepared this time around, the suspension of visitation is an important way to limit the risk of possible exposure to you, your family, our staff and our community.”

Hospital officials said the broader visitation restrictions don’t extend to a very limited number of support persons for qualifying patients, such as delivering OB mothers; pediatric patients; patients with confusion, altered mental status or developmental delays; and end-of-life patients.

Hospital officials have also placed restrictions on Emergency Room visits.

“Our hospitals are once again seeing the same volume of non-COVID-19 emergencies, including strokes, heart attacks and traumas that we were seeing before the pandemic began,” said Dr. Julie Vieth, Canton-Potsdam Hospital Emergency Department chair, in a statement. “Now though, we also have to account for patients with COVID-19, which has been challenging. When emergency departments are faced with seeing lower acuity COVID-19 patients just for testing, or to confirm their COVID-19 diagnosis, it means we have to triage even more patients, more carefully, which can lead to overcrowding and longer wait times for all of our patients.”

She said anyone who has been exposed to, or thinks they may have contracted the virus, should be tested at one of St. Lawrence Health’s testing sites.

“Same- or next-day appointments are usually available. Test results are typically available by the next day,” Dr. Vieth said.

Appointments can be scheduled online at or by calling the St. Lawrence Health COVID Hotline, which is available daily, at 315-261-6240.

Testing can be done from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 77 West Barney St., Gouverneur, and 1 Hospital Drive, Massena. Testing is available from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily at 145 Market St., Potsdam.

Testing can also be done at St. Lawrence Health’s Urgent Care locations — 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 49 Lawrence Ave., Potsdam, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at 80 East Main St., Canton.

For the latest information on visitation restrictions at St. Lawrence Health, visit

Prior to Wednesday’s suspension of visitations, hospital officials had placed limits on the number of visitors. COVID-negative patients could have one visitor, age 12 and older at a time. Obstetrics patients and pediatrics patients could have two support people each. Patients undergoing procedures or surgeries could have one visitor before and after.

Also, patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and cognitive impairments, like dementia, could have one support person at a time. An additional visitor had been allowed during visiting hours. End-of-life patients were allowed up to two visitors or support persons at a time. Clergy members were not considered visitors.

COVID-positive patients, patients in the Emergency Department and patients at the Center for Cancer Care Infusion Center were not allowed visitors.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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