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Noem Weekly Column: South Dakotans Come Together to Respond to COVID-19

March 21, 2020


Since January, my team at the Department of Health has been preparing for this virus and what that may mean for South Dakota. At the moment, our numbers continue to be encouraging, but we do still expect things to get worse before they get better.

Thanks to the proactive steps we developed with healthcare providers, schools, leaders and businesses and communities across the state, we have delayed community spread beyond initial projections. The combination of good hygiene, social distancing, and staying home when sick, have helped us stay ahead of the virus’ spread. I want to thank everyone for their due diligence.

At the moment, all the individuals that have tested positive in South Dakota are at home resting and healing up.  That’s good news for everyone. The other good news is, though it doesn’t get nearly enough attention in the press, that there are untold stories of how people are coming together at this difficult time.

For example, the Dairy Queen in Pierre purchased iPads for the high-risk and vulnerable folks that are “shut in” in Pierre.  These iPads are helping isolated individuals stay in touch with friends and family during this time.

There’s also a story of a young man (17 years old) that voluntarily gave up his shift hours to coworkers who needed the money more than him. Or the grocery stores who have special shopping times for seniors and high-risk folks so they can shop without being exposed to crowds that may be carrying the virus. And the business manager for Todd County’s School District who is sending out 5000 meals a day to kids in his school district. To date, we have 90 percent of our school districts getting meals to kids while schools are closed.

Parents who work in essential jobs, like emergency personnel, medical professionals, law enforcement, and many others, may be feeling pressure with their kids at home because schools are closed. I’m asking South Dakotans to get creative and help problem solve for these families. If you are not in the vulnerable population and are at home with the capacity to care for some kids, would you please consider opening up your home to these families?

Perhaps one silver lining of this national emergency is that it forces us to stay home and think local.  I am inspired to see South Dakotans looking out for each other. Together, we will get through this. We always do.

To learn more about ways you can protect yourself and the people around you, visit COVID.SD.GOV or call 1-800-997-2880.