As COVID-19 cases climb, fewer people visit South Dakota

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — With COVID-19 cases on the rise in South Dakota, airport passenger numbers are going down.

Based on last year’s numbers, the Rapid City Regional Airport saw, on average about 800 passengers a day. This year, they see about 50 during this time.

“We are seeing what we are pretty much reading about nationwide, we are down about 95 percent in total passengers,” Toni Broom, Deputy Airport Director for Finance and Administration, said.

The airport gift shop is closed and the cafe only offers carry-out for employees.
Some of the changes are in plain sight, like signs making sure passengers take health precautions as they fly in and out of Rapid City.

“So we’ve got those posted throughout the facility as well.”

Some of the changes aren’t as obvious.

“We also have a crew that comes in twice a week after midnight and does just a thorough cleaning of the facility,” Broom said.

Fewer passengers flying into Rapid City means fewer tourists in the Black Hills. However, Julie Jenson with Visit Rapid City says during a global health crisis, safety comes first.

“We have to be smart and we have to listen to the medical and scientific professionals so we are preparing our recovery and we know that we have a big hole to dig out of,” Julie Jensen, President and CEO of Visit Rapid City, said.

No matter how bad things get, Jensen knows this pandemic won’t last forever. Eventually visitor numbers will rebound.

“Our industry is ready to roll whenever we are allowed and that is the thing, we have to be allowed and we have to do it in a way that visitors feel safe,” Jensen said.

The Rapid City Regional Airport Administration is practicing social distancing by taking turns working from home.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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