Six months of COVID-19 in Beadle County

From the Mound

What were you doing March 11?

The De Smet Bulldogs boys’ basketball team had earned its way to the State “B” boys tournament the night before and was ranked number two in the state, while the De Smet girls team was in Spearfish to open defense of its 2019 State “B” girls’ tournament title.

The Huron boys’ basketball team was ranked atop the Class “AA” rankings after a strong finish to its regular season, primed for state tournament season, which may have included an inevitable matchup against Yankton.

Tickets for the tournament had just gone on sale.

The front page of the Plainsman featured a picture of the walking bridge at Ravine Lake Park completely submerged below flood waters that had rushed over the dam and risen over the top of Jersey Avenue, forcing its closure.

That was also the day that the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Beadle County and the first death from the virus was announced in the state.

Yesterday was six months since we first were introduced to COVID-19 in the county, and it’s been a crazy ride since to say the least.

The county initially spiked with 10 cases announced when the city and county commissions met jointly to put together ordinances that were stringent, but quickly showed their value.

Beadle County made national news as an early hot spot with 20 cases and two deaths by early April, but April 1 was the last announced new positive case for almost six weeks in the county.

The county became a key point of example for S.D. Governor Kristi Noem as she encouraged other counties and cities in the state to enact similar ordinances. She did not have the constitutional power to shut down the entire state, as that power was in the hands of counties and municipalities, and she encouraged counties and municipalities to take similar actions to what Huron and Beadle County did in many of her press conferences.

Then, the city commission voted on May 9 to reduce the restrictions of the ordinance. The county commission followed suit on May 11, two months after the first case.

And May 12 was the first announced positive case in 41 days in the county. Within a week, the county’s total positive cases would double.

Beginning May 16, the county went through an explosion of cases that lasted until July 11 before two consecutive days were announced with no new positive cases.

In that eight-week time, 529 new positive cases and six deaths were added to the tally for Beadle County.

From July 11 until very recently, the county seemed to settle into another time of calm with the virus. New positive cases came at a rate of 5-15 per week in the county, with consistent testing resulting in 55-70 new people being tested in the county per week.

Then, as the state surged in late August, Beadle began to surge again, with the South Dakota State Fair looming on the horizon.

From August 20 to the numbers announced Friday, Beadle County added nearly 60 new positive cases in two weeks. That’s before mass testing for State Fair workers began Friday with those results  expected to begin coming in over the weekend.

What have we learned in Beadle County in six months? What is different? When will things go “back to normal” again?

To answer in reverse order, the normal of February 2020 is likely never coming back.

Businesses have changed how they operate, many of those changes will be long lasting. The clear glass or plastic partitions that you now see at so many service businesses have benefits that will be worth keeping long-term.

Those same dividers in manufacturing environments keep employees safe while allowing production rates not to suffer.

The biggest difference is that we all have to be more mindful of our interactions. Life isn’t something we can simply take for granted.

Have you called your grandmother/mother/best friend lately?

Previously, that was something we could put off another day and catch up with when we had the time.

With social distancing and face masks making personal interaction less common, we actually crave it and seek it out from those who we may have put off in the past.

Finally, what have we learned?

Beadle County is an area of people passionate for their families and their communities. When the pandemic first hit and ordinances were put into place that restricted restaurant sales to take-out only, the city of Huron actually experienced more restaurant sales month over month than the previous year, even without the ability to eat inside.

Community members who have needed assistance with rent, food, or even work during the pandemic have found willing assistance once they asked.

Our leaders on the city and county commissions, school boards, and so many other decision-making bodies that had to pore over piles of information in order to make the best decisions for the cities, counties, and schools the last six months, have done so with a tremendous amount of thought, consideration, and, most importantly, care.

A virus may have disrupted the flow of the last six months, but most of us are still here.

Let’s all take the proper precautions to ensure we’re all here going forward to keep this community going strong!


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