Like most South Dakotans, I want to keep our schools open and our economy strong. If we don’t get COVID-19 under control, that’s going to be increasingly difficult.
On Monday, Rapid City Schools announced schools would be closing and students would be moving to virtual learning. More than 10% of Rapid City teachers and administrators are unable to work because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed. As of Monday, the Harrisburg School District had 50 positive COVID-19 cases between students and staff – 33 staff members are currently quarantining. Over 1,665 South Dakota teachers have had COVID since August. Our school systems can’t afford more cases.
Avera, one of the state’s largest health systems, has said community spread of COVID-19 has forced hundreds of their employees to remain at home in recent weeks. Maintaining adequate staffing is the largest concern for our hospitals. Avera has been at or above patient capacity every single day in recent weeks. In October, 52.5% of nursing homes in South Dakota had a shortage of nurses. Our state can’t afford a health care worker shortage.
In North Dakota, nurses with COVID-19 are now permitted to work on other COVID patients. South Dakota hospitals are considering following suit. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
It’s getting colder and that’s presenting new challenges. More than seven hundred of our neighbors have passed away. I’m not saying these things to invoke fear, but these are the facts, this is the data. This virus is very real, and sometimes it’s deadly. I’m reminded of this almost weekly as I receive news of friends and colleagues who have passed from the virus.
So, what can we do?
I feel a sense of duty to protect those around me who are more susceptible to the worst outcomes of this virus. That’s why I wear a mask – that’s why I’ve stepped up my social distancing.
We all need to step it up and do what we can to slow the spread. In the meantime, I’ll be fighting for better testing and PPE for our schools, hospitals, and businesses.
I have faith in South Dakotans – but we can’t win this fight without your help. As we fight this together keep in mind the three W’s: Wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear a mask.