Life Has Changed In Past Week
Life has changed for area residents in the past week.
Drastic measures have been taken across the country in recent days to try and control the spread of the coronavirus, and the Marshall County area is no exception.
Governor Kristi Noem has mandated that schools remain closed for a second week March 23-27. Breakfast and lunch will be available in a grab and go format from 7:55-8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. each weekday at the Guidance Office entry on the west side of the high school. All information will be placed on the school district web site.
Schools had been closed this week, although Langford Area had spring break scheduled for Thursday and Friday and no classes had been planned at Britton-Hecla on Friday. Gov. Noem also closed state offices until Monday.
Most churches held services on Sunday but many of those services were transmitted on Facebook, allowing many area residents to watch from home. First Lutheran Church cancelled Lenton services for tonight (Wednesday). The four churches of the Langford Lutheran Parish livestreamed services on Sunday and will continue to do so with services on March 18, 22, and 25. Information may be found on the Langford Lutheran Parish Facebook page.
No visitors are being permitted at the Marshall County Healthcare Center and Spruce Court, and the only visitors allowed at Wheatcrest Hills are family members of a resident who is critically ill. The Wellness Center at the hospital has been closed until further notice. The clinic is open for business as usual but anyone that is sick is asked to call ahead.
The Britton Area Expo planned for Saturday, March 28, by the Britton Area Chamber of Commerce was cancelled. All Marshall County 4-H activities, including practices and meets for shooting sports, have been cancelled until at least March 31.
The Senior Nutrition Center at the Marshall County Community Building remains open as usual. However, those who deliver meals to residents must place meals at the front door of homes for pick-up.
As of Tuesday the Marshall County Courthouse will be closed to the general public and anyone wishing to enter the building must pass a screening. The only people admitted will be those who cannot do business over the phone or email, who do not have a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, and who have not traveled recently.
Those needing to purchase vehicle registrations are able to do so over the phone with the Treasurer’s Office (448-2451) or a kiosk is available at Kessler’s in Aberdeen.
Sheriff Dale Elsen said anyone calling 911 should tell dispatchers if they are experiencing any signs of illness. Officers and first responders are equipped with masks and rubber gloves. Elsen said jail inmates are also being monitored for symptoms and jail visitors will not be permitted. Family members will be granted additional telephone time during calling periods. Courthouse employees are continually sanitizing surfaces and disinfectant wipes are carried in vehicles.
City Facilities Open
The City of Britton has decided, at least for now, to leave City Hall, the library, and the Event Center open for public use. City employees are using caution, disinfecting often, limiting human contact, limiting hours to allow extra cleaning, and cancelling all public events.
“We are using caution, disinfecting often, limiting human contact, limiting hours to allow extra cleaning, and cancelling all public events,” said Britton mayor Clyde Fredrickson. “But if you want a book, you are welcome to come and get one. If you feel a need to walk a few laps or just have to get the kids out of the house and burn up some energy, the Event Center is open. We just ask that if you or someone in your house are feeling ill or have been exposed to someone that is, please, stay home. If you do come out, please keep a little more distance than normal, respect others and do not put anyone else at risk.”
The South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) postponed the Class B girls state basketball tournament after first round games were played in Spearfish on Thursday. It has also postponed the Class A and AA girls state tournaments, as well as the Class A and AA boys state tournaments scheduled for this Thursday through Saturday. All other state SDHSAA activities are currently postponed.
Those moves fall in line with what has happened on the national front. March Madness, the much-anticipated NCAA men’s and women’s national basketball tournaments were cancelled, as were all levels of men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling championships. The NCAA has also cancelled all spring sports. All major league sports including the NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NHL are all on hold.
Gov. Noem held a press conference Monday afternoon where she encouraged businesses and individuals to be proactive in dealing with COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, by following CDC guidelines. She is encouraging social distancing and personal responsibility. Her priority continues to focus on health, while being cognizant of impacts on small businesses.
At present, Gov. Noem is not recommending the closure of bars and restaurants in South Dakota. She and her staff will continue to evaluate the state’s response as the situation develops. She also has spoken with President Trump, and although some cities and states have done so, there is no national quarantine or curfew in place.
Noem also stressed that food supply chains are in good shape and the supply of food to residents should not be an issue. Ken’s Food Fair received its normal truck to restock products Monday morning. Blake Clarke said the store received a supply of toilet paper, milk, and other regular products with the exception of hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes which were not available.
All Play Critical Role
President Donald Trump also held a news conference Monday afternoon where he announced new guidelines for the next 15 days and he said that “each and every one of us has a critical role to play stopping the spread and transmission of the virus.”
The guidelines are as follows: all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible; avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel, and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts. All older Americans, who are most vulnerable to the virus, are also being urged to stay home.
“If everyone makes these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus and we’re going to have a big celebration all together,” Trump said. “With several weeks of focused action we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.”
Schools are also preparing for the possibility that the week off from classes will be extended.
“We’re trying to look at different ways of putting out an online learning curriculum of some sort in case this continues,” said Britton-Hecla superintendent Steve Benson. “Obviously, the worst hasn’t hit us yet, and we can probably expect more of this in the future.
“We could do anything from some type of online learning platform to emailing a list to kids and they could come get books and do chapter 13,” added Benson. “It’s easier for middle school and high school, but trying to find something that works for K-5 is kind of a neat trick. We’re trying to do the best we can.”
School patrons should check the school’s web site in the coming days for information and expectations for students. Venture Communications has offered free internet access to those who need it for instruction. Anyone needing internet access should call or email Benson by Thursday.
Benson said there is also discussion of how things will look if there is a shortened school year.
“Graduation and everything else is being talked about, but we just can’t make decisions until we know more. It’s very frustrating because we want to be doing something but we’re just not sure what it is we’re supposed to be doing. We’re trying to communicate everything that we know.”
Benson noted that the state has indicated it doesn’t want schools to be in session past the first of June. Most school calendars currently end between May 15-20, so that gives districts seven to 10 days of flex in scheduling.
Gov. Noem had also directed schools do use this week to do deep cleaning of school facilities, but Benson said that is standard procedure.
“We do it every day and every night, so it’s business as usual. But we are putting in a little more time into cleaning this week. Whenever sickness goes through the school we really crank down on areas kids might touch. But that’s only good until the next kid comes along and touches it, so it’s an ongoing thing.”
Langford Area Superintendent Monte Nipp said his school is taking similar action.
“We’re not letting anybody in the building this week and cleaning everything that is touchable with bleach water and spraying with disinfectant,” said Nipp. “We’ve done this before, so it’s not really foreign to us.”
Langford Area is also preparing for the possible extension of school closings by looking at online possibilities.
“We haven’t done anything formally yet, but if the closures continue we will try to deliver learning online,” said Nipp. “It’s kind of a day-by-day and a week to week thing, and we’re trying to keep the staff and community up to date. I’m hoping the governor goes week by week rather than shutting schools down for an extended time, but we’ll just have to see what happens.”
Nipp does feel it is better to be a bit over-cautious.
“Years from now we would want history to say, ‘Remember the coronavirus when the schools all shut down and kind of kept the pandemic to lower numbers in South Dakota with good proactive action, rather than have history say we waited until the numbers were there and then it was really too late.”
Technology At Wheatcrest
Wheatcrest Hills administrator Dru Fischgrabe said that the facility is incorporating CDC guidelines into its operations.
“We are working on social distancing, but with 42 residents we would have to have about 40 tables in the dining area, so the logistics are difficult. We also have a protocol upon entry for anybody including staff, visitors, or residents that go out for any reason, including a CDC questionnaire and screening every time they enter the facility. And our delivery guys drop things off at the front door.”
Fischgrabe said that Wheatcrest is using technology to help residents stay in touch with family. The facility acquired a couple of i-pads that have Skype, Facetime, and Hub applications and has instructions for families to be able to communicate with residents. Employees are ready to assist residents who wish to talk with family members.
“There is no more vulnerable population than what you find in a nursing home,” stressed Fischgrabe. “We need to do everything we can to keep our residents safe.”
Bank Services Available
First Savings Bank and the Norstar Federal Credit Union in Britton say services will continue to be available. Customers have access through drive-up windows, ATM’s, night deposit boxes, online banking, and loan applications can be processed either online or via email. Offices in both businesses are still currently open for business.
Britton’s largest employer, Horton, Inc., which employs 185 people, is maintaining a regular work schedule, but the company has disinfecting wipes and cleaners at each station and has instructed employees to wipe down constantly.
“We’re trying to follow CDC recommendations to the best of our abilty,” said plant manager Jim Boyko. “We’re increasing personal cleaning, eliminating non-essential company travel, and limiting plant visitors.”
By The Numbers
Coronavirus (as of 3 p.m. Tuesday)
S.D. Cases – 11 (Minnehaha County 5, Beadle 1, Bon Homme 1, Charles Mix 1, Davison 1, McCook 1, Penninton 1), 1 death
U.S. Cases – 5,891 – 99 deaths
H1N1 (Swine Flu) April 2009-April 2019
U.S. Cases – 60.8 million, 12,469 deaths
U.S. Cases – 36 million, 22,000 deaths