RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender held a news briefing Wednesday afternoon to address the city’s response to the community spread of COVID-19.
Allender said the cases have gone up by 100-percent in the past week in the area. He said it appears there is community spread of COVID-19, and the virus seems to be hitting the Native American population hard.
He says the cases in Pennington County have doubled in the past week, so looking ahead to the future is tough with COVID-19.
The state previously reported two Rapid Transit drivers who tested positive for COVID-19. Allender says a third driver has tested positive. He says drivers who have tested positive have not had contact with each other.
The mayor said the Rapid Transit System will be shut down on Saturday, May 30, for two weeks. Allender says this will allow for deep cleaning of buses and equipment. He says drivers will be monitoring themselves for symptoms.
People who rely on Rapid Transit System and need rides during the next two weeks are advised to call 211 for a list of other options.
Buses will return to service on June 15. Allender says drivers will have better personal protection equipment (PPE) when the service returns.
Rapid Transit System is currently making employees sanitize buses, wear masks and clean other equipment. The system is looking to bring in another company to do a more thorough cleaning during the shutdown.
The drivers who have tested positive for COVID-19 are said to be doing well. At this point, no riders have reported coming down with the virus. The state Department of Health is doing the contact tracing of the bus drivers.
Allender says people need to take personal responsibility to keep themselves healthy.
“You focus on protecting yourself,” Allender said.
The mayor says it is time to space out and practice social distancing. He reminded the public not to shake hands with anyone and cover your faces while coughing or sneezing.
Allender says Rapid City will start doing some localized tracking of cases.
He says he has asked the South Dakota Department of Health for help in how to handle tourists who test positive while visiting the Black Hills area.
Allender says tourists are going to come to South Dakota this summer. He doesn’t believe they pose any greater threat than anyone else.
“We are a place people love to visit,” Mayor Allender said.
Allender says there is an emergency shelter that is housing less than a dozen people right now. Some of those people have tested positive for COVID-19 and those people are isolated. He says the numbers of people needing to stay there goes up and down by a few each day; there’s no real pattern.