Sturgis mayor urges citizens to lessen spread of COVID-19

Mark Carstensen talks Wednesday about what the city of Sturgis is doing to lessen the spread of COVID-19 while Meade County Commission Chairman Ted Seaman looks on. Pioneer photo by Deb Holland

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STURGIS — Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen said the current reality is that there will be COVID-19 cases in his community, but residents and local businesses need to do their part to lessen the spread.

“These are scary times, but if we band together and work together at this we are going to get ahead of this as quickly as possible,” Carstensen said at a news conference Wednesday. 

Carstensen referred to the CDC guidelines concerning social distancing and personal hygiene. The guidelines call for washing hands frequently, keeping six feet away from other people, not gathering in groups of 10 or more people and self-isolating if you can. 

“As responsible adults, we all need to take action to reduce the risk of infection within our community,” he said. “Be aware. Don’t lose focus of what is out there and how we can stop the spread.”

Carstensen and other city officials visited bars and restaurants throughout Sturgis this week encouraging them to follow Gov. Kristi Noem’s executive order concerning operation of small businesses during the outbreak.

So far, Carstensen said he has not issued a directive nor has the Sturgis City Council discussed specific statutory actions for closures. 

He said many local businesses have taken the steps, voluntarily, to cease or significantly change operations until the threat of the pandemic passes. 

“We applaud and support these difficult decisions,” he said.

But city officials still are checking to make sure the CDC guidelines are being followed concerning gatherings and sanitary procedures.

“We’re going to check on those people that are open. We’re sending people in daily to make sure that these guidelines are being followed,” he said. 

What about plans for the upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?

“One hundred percent, we’re still planning for the Rally,” Carstensen said. “Obviously this is an everchanging thing. It’s late March. We have a little bit of time here. We have to see what develops before we start talking seriously about anything with that.”

MEADE COUNTY

Meade County offices will remain open, but county officials are asking the public to limit visits to the county administration building and instead do as much county business as they can through mail or drop boxes that are being installed in the near future outside the front entrance of the Erskine Building.

In the interim, there will be a table set up inside the entrance to the building for people to drop off pertinent documents for say paying taxes or buying car license tags.

At their meeting Tuesday, the Meade County Commission stopped short of closing offices and instead directed commission assistant Jerry Derr and county buildings and grounds superintendent Kevin Forrester to come up with protocols for county offices during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We need to look at ways and services we can provide to cut down on foot traffic through the offices,” said Meade County Commissioner Talbot Wieczorek. 

Wieczorek said commissioners could review the plan before putting the protocols into action.

Derr said once they have the information they need, they will post the protocols on the county’s website at meadecounty.org and on social media.

“We want people to be aware that we want limited access,” said Meade County Commission Chair Ted Seaman.

Residents are being given a grace period on renewing the license tags on their vehicles. According to a release from the South Dakota Department of Revenue’s Motor Vehicle Division, law enforcement is being asked to not enforce certain expirations until May 1.

“The Motor Vehicle Division understands not everyone has access to our online renewal system or a DMV Now Kiosk to renew registrations.” said Motor Vehicle Division Director, Rosa Yaeger,”By not enforcing the expiration of these registrations until May 1, 2020 and granting an additional 30 days to transfer titles, the division hopes that we can assist South Dakotans, during this stressful time.”

Property taxes, which are paid to the Meade County Treasurer, still come due on April 30. These can be paid by mail or over the phone, county officials say. The treasurer’s office also asks that when mailing your property tax payments that you include a phone number or contact information.

MEADE SCHOOL DISTRICT

Jeff Simmons, superintendent of Meade School District, said from all indications, distance learning is going well.

Simmons met with administrators via conference call Wednesday morning to determine how they could improve upon the system.

“We understand that this is like building an airplane in the air, and we need to work things out as we are moving,” Simmons said. “We know it’s not perfect, but we’re doing the best that we can to make adjustments.”

Simmons said the bottom line is that students continue to be engaged in academic activities and continue to learn.

“I can’t say enough about our teachers stepping up and doing what they need to do to get things done,” he said. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Kristi Noem said she wants schools to remain closed until May 1 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“We will continue to follow the recommendation of the governor,” Simmons said.

Since Monday, the Meade School District food service department has been packing and delivering lunches to various locations throughout the school district. 

The lunches are made both at Sturgis Elementary School and at Stagebarn Middle School. The bagged meals are then transported to Piedmont Valley Elementary and Whitewood Elementary for distribution.

School buses also are delivering the meals with stops in Sturgis at

Hunter Ridge Apartments on Moose Dr., 10:35; Mountain View Estates, 10:45; Butte Ridge Apartments on Ellen St., 11:05; Meade Park at Douglas St., 11:20; and Sturgis Chamber of Commerce, 11:35.

There also is a schedule with stops in Piedmont and Summerset.

Here are the times: Sacora Station 10:50 a.m., State Street/Tilford, 11 a.m., Stables Drive and Kit Carson, 11:10 a.m. West Valley View Drive, 11:30 a.m., Kit Carson and Pony Express 11:30 a.m., Jane Drive and Robinson Road, 11:50 a.m., Sun Valley Dr. and Glenwood, 11:50 a.m., Green Meadows and Brookside, 12:15 p.m., Castle Wood and Remington, 12:10 p.m., Leisure Land and Astoria, 12:30 p.m., Weston Heights Water Tower, 12:40 p.m., Diamond T and Fillmore, 12:50 p.m. and Family Dollar, 1:10 p.m.

“I’m just absolutely amazed and so proud and pleased with everything that crew is doing,” Simmons said. “I’m so impressed with the innovation and creativity it took to make it happen in such a short amount of time.”

Earlier this week, in a Summerset SD Residents Facebook post, a mom said they were offered a meal even though her children attend school at Black Hawk.

“We are feeding our enrolled students, and I’m hopeful that if there is a hungry face looking out of a car window that we are providing a sack lunch for that child too. I think that’s what you do in times like these,” Simmons said. 

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