Just a couple of weeks ago Jerauld County in east central South Dakota, had the highest rate of new infections in the state and one of the highest rates in the entire nation, with one in 37 people testing positive for COVID-19. This week Jerauld County has dropped down to the lowest rate of new infections in the state, perhaps because people are taking more action to stop the spread. In this edition of “COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers,” a long-time Wessington Springs’ doctor shares his very personal story of loss to COVID-19.

Betty and Harold Dean were married for 76 years. Both were in the Weskota Manor Nursing home in Wessington Springs when the pandemic hit.

“For close to six months, they were completely free of the virus. They were screening people, so they managed to keep the virus out of the facility, even when we had an outbreak in the community,” Dr. Dean said.

Dr. Tom Dean has worked as a family practice physician in Wessington Springs for 42 years.
He writes a column in the weekly local paper, True Dakotan, to try to guide people through the pandemic. But he was helpless when the virus infected his elderly parents .

“The virus snuck in and it just went wild. Before we knew it about half the residents were infected and what was, especially difficult was a very large portion of the staff was also infected,” he said.

Betty Dean is visited by her grandchildren while the nursing home was in lockdown

Dr. Dean says his 97-year-old mother’s health was failing and she may have died anyway. However, she did test positive for COVID-19. She died on September 26. Dr. Dean didn’t expect to lose his father four days later.

“My dad on the other hand had just passed his 100th birthday and was clinically quite stable. He was confused and frail at age 100, but he was stable until the virus hit and when it did he went downhill in a hurry,” Dr. Dean said.

Dr. Dean continues to preach social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing. He believes if people just kept one thing in mind, we could slow the spread of COVID-19.

I’ve said we all need to behave as if we know we have this virus and act as if we know we are the culprits, even if we think we’re not. But if we act that way and we respect these simple rules it can be controlled. But we’re not very good at doing that so far.”

Dr. Tom Dean, Wessington Springs

Kennecke: Are you afraid of Wessington Springs, your county, your nursing home of getting hit again?
Dr. Dean: Sure, yes it could come back. I certainly hope it won’t, it could reoccur.

Dr. Tom Dean of Horizon Health Care

Dr. Dean works for Horizon Health Care and says they’ve had a number of COVID-19 cases, but only two to five people hospitalized at one time.

Avera Health manages Westkota Manor and tells KELOLAND News it currently has no active cases of residents with COVID-19.