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Governor Noem provides ‘Back to Normal’ guidelines amidst COVID-19 pandemic

By Kelli Bultena

This week, South Dakota positive COVID-19 cases continued to rise for the state. Lincoln County is still listed at the second highest county in positive cases. As of Tuesday, April 28 statewide cases were at 2313 with 910 active cases and 1392 recovered cases reported. A total of 11 deaths have been reported due to COVID-19 statewide.

On April 28, Lincoln County specifically was at 133 total cases, with 56 listed as active and 77 listed as recovered. Ever hospitalized in Lincoln County is up to 10, this is an increase from four listed as ever hospitalized last week on April 21.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem on April 24 signed Executive Order 2020-18 which extends Executive Order 2020-13 for two weeks, through May 11, 2020. The Executive Order applies to Minnehaha and Lincoln counties. It directs adults over the age of 65 and people of any age who have certain serious underlying medical conditions to stay at home. The Executive Order includes exceptions for those who are in a critical infrastructure jobs, for essential errands, and the like.

She also signed Executive Order 2020-19 which provides additional regulatory flexibility to assist in the COVID-19 response.

In Lennox and Worthing, both communities have passed ordinances that put restrictions on businesses, limiting the number of patrons allowed. Although much discussion has been held in local governments and boards about the possibility of easing restrictions.

On Tuesday, April 28 Noem passed another Executive Order 2020-20 — which rescinds Executive order 2020-12, which had updated guidelines for South Dakota residents by replacing “should” with “shall” and extended the timeline for mitigation measures to May 31, 2020. It was noted that the Executive Order for Minnehaha and Lincoln County was still in effect through May 11.

Governor Noem provided a ‘Back to Normal’ plan on Tuesday afternoon.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed the path so many South Dakotans were on. Some of us lost friends and loved-ones,” Noem said. “This disease also stole our most precious commodity—time. In addition to the health costs, the social costs of this virus are historic in the worst way. I have let science, facts, and data drive our decision-making, and we will continue to do so.

“South Dakotans have taken personal responsibility for their health and safety seriously. They have done a tremendous job practicing good public hygiene and social distancing. Together, we’ve cut our projected peak infection rate by more than 75 percent. South Dakotans have lived up to our state’s motto: ‘Under God, the people rule.’

“The plan I am unveiling today continues to put the power of decision-making into the hands of the people – where it belongs. Today’s plan relies on South Dakotan’s continuing to exercise common sense, reasonableness, innovation, and a commitment to themselves, their families, and – in turn – their communities.”

The “Back to Normal” plan outlines guidance for individuals, employers, schools, health care providers and local governments.

There are criteria to initiate the “Back to Normal” plan, one which is a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period in areas with sustained community spread, and no clusters that pose a risk to public.

A portion of the information outlined in the ‘Back to Normal’ plan includes:


• Continue to practice good hygiene

• Continue to stay home when sick

• Continue to practice physical distancing, as appropriate

• Vulnerable individuals are at higher risk for this virus. Accordingly, they should:

• Take extra care to practice good hygiene

• Avoid those who are sick or those who have been exposed to people who are sick

• Consider staying home whenever possible


• Encourage good hygiene and sanitation practices, especially in high-traffic areas

• Encourage employees to stay home when sick

• If previously operating via telework, begin transitioning employees back to the workplace

• Where appropriate, screen employees for symptoms prior to entering the workplace

Enclosed Retail Businesses that Promote Public Gatherings:

(As defined in Executive Order 2020-08, this includes any indoor restaurant, bar, brewery, café, casino, coffee shop, recreational or athletic facility, health club, or entertainment venue.)

• Resume operations in a manner that allows for reasonable physical distancing, good hygiene, and appropriate sanitation

• Consider restricting occupancy and continue innovating in this uncertain environment

View the entire document online at

It was noted that the Governor and Department of Health may respond to significant clusters with enhanced mitigation on a county-by-county basis.

“We’re still projecting 30% of the population to get infected,” said South Dakota Department of Health Secretary of Health, Kim Malsam-Rysdon.

Malsam-Rysdon added, “We trust people to use good common sense to help us manage this.”

State officials say that the plan is based on increased testing capacity and continued improvement in South Dakota’s projected peak hospitalization.


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