New S.D. Senate president pro tem has COVID-19

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Another South Dakota state lawmaker has tested positive for COVID-19. This time, it’s the incoming top member of the Senate.

Republican Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown said Tuesday morning he’s recovering at his family cabin in the Black Hills.

He is the incoming Senate president pro tem. As the top member from the 35-member body, the pro tem assigns Senate committees and decides where legislation goes for hearings on the Senate side. The pro tem also presides over the chamber when the Senate president, Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, isn’t present.

“I had a hack, a dry cough, from deep in my throat. Seemed odd, so I got tested Thursday morning at Brown Clinic (in Watertown) and was positive. I think that’s the third time I was tested, and two antibody tests,” Schoenbeck said.

He’s quarantining through Friday. “No idea how I got it,” he said.

Schoenbeck said he’s aware of 12 senators who have tested positive for coronavirus. He declined to give names.

Only he and two others — Republican Helene Duhamel of Rapid City and Democrat Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls, after the governor’s December 8 budget speech in Pierre — have been publicly acknowledged.

At that point Schoenbeck said knew of at least six senators. The number of House members who have tested positive hasn’t been disclosed. House Speaker Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, said he had COVID-19 in October after a special legislative session and was deeply ill.

Representative Linda Duba, a Sioux Falls Democrat, informed House leaders on Christmas Eve that she would participate remotely in the 2021 session until she’s had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In March, Representative Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, died of COVID-19. The incoming House speaker, Republican Representative Spencer Gosch of Glenham, missed time when he suspected he might have been infected.

The 2021 session opens January 12. Schoenbeck said he and Gosch are meeting next week to finalize arrangements. Plexiglass shields have been installed around some legislators’ desks.

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