HURON, S.D. (KELO) — Huron was an early hotspot for COVID-19. Two people died, including state lawmaker Bob Glanzer. Then, the northeastern South Dakota town went nearly six weeks without a reported case.
But now Beadle County is reporting 163 cases of coronavirus.
Because Huron is home to the state fair, the school year doesn’t start until after Labor Day and ends tomorrow. But with the rash of new cases in Huron, precautions are in place for students turning in their iPads and supplies. Due to construction out front, Huron High School has setup a tent at a side door to accept students’ materials.
“It’s all going to be carried in by people in face masks, put along the walls of the hallways—the hallway is secured and then nothing will be touched for 48 hours and then they’ll start processing the materials,” Nebelsick said.
School District Superintendent Terry Nebelsick says they’re taking every precaution after at least three students and some of their parents tested positive for COVID-19.
“There was a kindergartener, that had identified positive, along with a parent and there was a kid who graduated in our virtual graduation this past Sunday that identified and then I knew from last Friday’s information from health officials that we had an eighth grader who had identified positive along with his father,” Nebelsick said.
Nebelsick does not know their conditions.
“It’s not panic up here, it’s more like, here we go again. Let’s be as diligent as we can and get through this,” Nebelsick said.
Over at the Dakota Provisions meat processing plant, cases have also spiked, now at 16. Dakota Provisions Mark (Smokey) Heuston told the Huron COVID-19 Task Force that the plant’s early sanitizing measures and other precautions worked to keep cases out of the plant until recently.
“One couple chose to ignore these guidelines and travel to Aberdeen on Mother’s Day weekend and visit relatives. One of these relatives worked at the beef plant in Aberdeen. When this couple returned to Huron, they learned one of the people they visited had now tested positive for coronavirus. That mistake took us to where we are today,” Heuston said during task force meeting.
Sick employees are being paid to stay home while the plant takes steps to prevent further spread.
“Several of our employees wear a paper mask, a cloth mask and a face shield all at the same time. Last month we built a pavilion at the plant on the east side so employees can practice better social distancing during break periods,” Heuston said.
Meanwhile, Huron’s School Board is considering plans for how to start classes up again in the fall in the face of future spikes.
“When the conditions are right, we’ll get to school, we’ll get as much as we can—but when there is a surge in any one of the communities in South Dakota, like we are now, then we’re going to have to take it outside-what I see as 14 days—hit a restart and go again. Nothing is finalized yet, but that’s our vision of what we need to do, because it’s not going to go away until there is a vaccine,” Nebelsick said.
The task force has set up of a drive through testing site, but according to the state website they’re doing fewer than 40 tests in Beadle County per day. About half of them are coming back positive, which could indicate there isn’t enough testing.