Coronavirus cases in S.D. cause local changes: School closes; Senior Center suspends group mealtime



By Kelli Bultena

In a press conference on Tuesday, March 17 South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced that there would be no school across the state of South Dakota next week (March 23-27) due to the Cornoavirus Pandemic.

Governor Noem first confirmed the five positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Dakota on March 10. As of March 17, the number of positive cases has risen to 11 in the state. Minnehaha County has the most positive cases with five confirmed cases.

The positive cases include seven different counties, including Beadle County (1), Bon Homme (1), Charles Mix County (1), Davison County (1), McCook (1), Minnehaha County (5) and Pennington County (1). One of the cases was fatal, a man in his sixties from Pennington County.

All cases had travel history outside South Dakota prior to illness onset. As of March 17, Noem stated there is no community transmission at this time.

Noem stated that the patients testing positive for COVID-19 are being treated at their respective homes. Ages for positive cases range from 20 to 69 years old, of the 11 positive cases, 2 are female. As of March 17 the South Dakota Department of Health (SD-DOH) showed 551 negative cases, with 35 pending cases.

Governor Noem said, “Our team has been preparing for weeks, and I am confident we have the right people in place to address this fluid situation. Without panicking, I encourage all South Dakotans to take this seriously – now is the time to prepare and to stay informed.”

South Dakotans can learn more about COVID-19 by visiting the South Dakota Department of Health website (COVID.sd.gov) or by calling 1-800-997-2880.

Here in the Lennox and surrounding communities local government officials and business owners have been taking action. At the end of last week, local assisted living and nursing homes altered their visitor policies.

Todd Anderson with the Good Samaritan Society Lennox said, “Good Samaritan Society-Lennox is not allowing visitors at this time due to Covid-19, we are taking this step, as directed by our corporate office, as a precaution to continue to keep our residents from coming in contact with this virus.  We are having daily updates to monitor the situation and we will make adjustments to our visitor status as allowed.  Immediate family members of our residents are being kept informed with our current status, we know this is not easy for them, but they also understand we are keeping our residents health and well-being as our top priority.”

Lennox Assisted Living followed suit, sending out the message, “Due to the Concerns of COVID-19 and recommendations from the CDC, we are asking family and friends to consider the welfare of their loved ones and therefore our facility will be restricting visitors effective March 11. If your visit is not medically necessary or not an urgent matter, we ask that you refrain from visiting. We care about the safety and the health of our residents and appreciate your cooperation in this matter.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been updating policies regarding precautions that communities and families should take. This information can be found online at www.cdc.gov.

Last Friday afternoon, the Center for Active Generations Nutrition Director Rebecca Behnke said that the Lennox Senior Center would stop all congregant meals beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. Behnke said that all meals will be home delivered to those wishing to use that service.

Jodi Mechels organizes the volunteer drivers for the local Meals on Wheels service. To volunteer to deliver meals contact 647-2456. To receive a meal call the Lennox Senior Center at 647-2435 by 9 p.m.

Also last Friday afternoon Gov. Noem signed a State of Emergency order and requested all schools across the state close for a week.

The Lennox School District closed March 16-20 per the Governor’s request and will remain closed next week, March 23-27. Totally kids would also be closed during this time. All practices and activities are canceled, and the State A basketball tournament has been postponed. For more information on the South Dakota High School Athletic Association events, see page 14.

Superintendent Chad Conaway said that custodial staff will be in to sanitize all buildings, vehicles, and other district owned property. He also said that the public hearing for the Sioux Falls minor boundary change was canceled, but the School Board Meeting took place as planned on March 16. At that meeting, the Lennox School District approved a “pandemic plan”, see article on page 2.

Also on Monday the School District released information that the state has provided funding to allow the School District to serve sack lunches and breakfast at no cost to all K-12 students who need it during closures related to COVID-19. Students will be able to pick up these meals on a grab and go basis between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at the following locations: Lennox Elementary, Worthing Elementary, or Chancellor Reformed Church Parking Lot.

At the end of last week the Lennox City Council held an emergency meeting to adopt their own COVID-19 Response Plan. The Community Plan lists the following:

• The City encourages the public to limit social interactions, use proper handwashing and excellent hygiene to limit spread of disease.

• The City encourages local businesses, organizations, and faith-based communities to take precautions to limit spread of disease, and follow CDC guidance on continuing business operations.

• The City will work with Lincoln County Emergency Management and the South Dakota Department of Health when and if the Emergency Operations Plan is activated.

• The City encourages community groups and organizations to postpone events and large gatherings until further notice.

• The City encourages residents to take common sense precautions to limit social interaction, such as limiting non-essential trips to counties with known confirmed cases of Coronavirus, including Sioux Falls.

The plan goes on to outline how the City of Lennox will provide for continuity of operations, stating, “Continuing to provide critical services – such as sanitary sewers, drinking water, law enforcement and EMS during this pandemic remains a top priority for the City of Lennox.“

The entire plan can be viewed online at www.lennoxnews.com or on the city’s website www.cityoflennoxsd.com.

Lennox Mayor Tracy West said, “The Lennox Coronavirus Response Plan approved by the City Council tonight is a reasonable, rational preparation for what experts worldwide have told us; this problem will spread, and communities should take the necessary precautions to avoid exposure to the disease. To compare this to a natural disaster, the time to fill sandbags is before the flood, not during the flood. This plan is just that; a rational approach that follows guidance provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and the South Dakota Department of Health to protecting the community from a spreading disease.”

Lincoln County also made some adjustments, canceling the March 17 meeting in Lennox for the Public Safety Center and is encouraging all citizens to do as much county business as possible online.

In a proactive effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, signs were placed at the entry doors at the courthouse that state, “If you are experiencing flu like symptoms, please conduct your County business remotely”.

Phone numbers and email addresses for county services are available at www.lincolncountysd.org.

Harold Timmerman with Lincoln County Emergency Management said that there will be additional screening questions for those calling in to 911 in an effort to inform responding emergency personal of a COVID-19 concern. Area fire departments and ambulance have the proper supplies needed to respond, he said.

The South Dakota Supreme Court also issued an order declaring a judiciary emergency in South Dakota as a result of COVID-19. The order is intended as a proactive measure to enable the court system to respond swiftly to any emerging public health crisis in the courts of the state and to ensure the safety of court personnel, litigants and the public that interact with the court system.

With all of the changes to plans and policies happening quickly, many organizations are making adjustments as needed in an effort to serve the community.

The local food pantry — The Exchange, located inside Lennox Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, posted that they will remain open for regular days and hours during a two week period.  The Exchange will serve one client at a time and ask other clients to wait until it is their turn be served.  Clients may wait at the tables in the adjacent Fellowship Hall area, inside the building.

It was noted at Monday’s Lennox Council meeting that Sunshine Foods would be willing to offer more home deliveries if volunteers were available to step up, said Mayor West. He said it would be one way to keep the community’s most vulnerable people safe.

Sunshine Foods owner Todd Shuman confirmed their store currently offers delivery service on Thursdays.

Other organizations such as 4-H clubs and the Lions club have canceled upcoming meetings and events. Many area churches have changed from in-person worship services to online options. People are encouraged to call ahead or check websites for current schedules.

On Monday, March 16 President Donald Trump released the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America. In the document, titled, “15 days to slow the spread” the biggest change from more recent guidelines was the recommendation to avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.

It’s likely that by the time this article gets printed there will be changes in statistics, as well as adjustments to plans/policies for area businesses and organizations. The Lennox Independent will continue to post updates online at www.lennoxnews.com and publish articles in upcoming weeks as this story develops.

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