Heezen worriers

Hannah Heezen comforts her brother Hasten as they pick up school assignments Monday morning to take home and complete during the next two weeks. 

With widespread event cancellations, school closures, business restrictions, the practice of “social distancing” and new information about the COVID-19 pandemic emerging hourly, Governor Kristi Noem was accurate during her press conference Monday in describing our current situation as “uncharted territory.”

After the March 10, 2020 announcement of five confirmed South Dakota cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, Weskota Manor Avera in Wessington Springs took the precautionary measure to prohibit visitors to the nursing home. Manor officials say that the nursing home will be closed to visitors indefinitely. 

As cases grew, (at press time Tuesday, March 17, South Dakota had 11 positive cases, 551 negative cases and 35 pending results) Horizon Health Care’s local clinic, Jerauld County Community Health Center began to urge patients coming in for any reason to call ahead of their appointment in order for clinic staff to conduct a phone screening. If health care providers determine a patient needs to be tested for COVID-19, they do so in a location that provides protection for staff and prevents exposure to other community members.  

Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital has restricted visitors to the facility, closed the Weskota Wellness Center for the time being and asks patients to make sure to call ahead before coming in for any reason.  The hospital’s plan is to work patients that call in with symptoms and have them tested outside the facility.

As for Wessington Springs School District, elementary, middle and high school students are learning remotely at home for the remainder of this week and into next week, having picked up assignments Monday. The closure came on the heels of Gov. Noem’s Friday, March 13 and March 17 announcements mandating school closures across the state.

“I appreciate staff stepping up —administrators, teachers, paras — it went much smoother than I could have imagined,” said WS Schools Superintendent Dr. Pandi Pittman. "This is a difficult to deal with situation without knowing the ending. Working together will continue to maintain our health and well-being."

Municipalities and Jerauld County officials have been working on putting plans in place and a multitude of local businesses and organizations have shifted “life as we know it” in order to carefully steer the community through this public health concern.

Much more about community plans and closures can be found on the True Dakotan website at: http://www.truedakotan.com/photo_of_the_day/local-resource-guide-covid/article_30ced2e0-68b2-11ea-8532-533433a8de81.html