Mayor shares COVID-19 plan

Gray Hughes

Hill City mayor Kathy Skorzewski has a new address for the city.

In the address, she spelled out the city’s response to COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus.

“To say 2020 has been an interesting year is quite the understatement,” she said. “It seems like we went from a mild winter to what was gearing up to be a record-making spring, to a pandemic and the country literally closing down. We have all seen the news stories and have been watching what is happening in other parts of the country, and as we sit here in the beautiful Black Hills, it almost doesn't seem real.”

As the city moves forward into 2020 and the tourism season and with visitors and snowbirds coming to town, Skorzewski said the city will “no doubt” begin to see more of the effects of COVID-19.

The case count in Pennington County is starting to rise with 57 active cases as of Tuesday, according to the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH), and Skorzewski said she “fully expects” to see cases in Hill City.

Community members, she said, have been doing a good job of making changes to support social distancing and slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Continued efforts, she said, in keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH recommendations will “hopefully” reduce the negative impacts on the Hill City community and what the city could face.

“As your mayor, it is my responsibility to be sure that we are doing whatever we can to protect the welfare of all of our Hill City family,” she added. “Your elected officials are responsible for ensuring any legislation that deals with this health situation is meeting the needs of our citizens, businesses and guests.”

Hill City has been monitoring and managing information on COVID-19, and this has given the city a good base as the city goes through the year and as the city approaches tourism season.

In the address, Skorzewski spelled out Hill City’s operating approach to COVID-19, which is:

•           Continued daily monitoring of COVID-19 actively both nationally and locally

•           Regular conversations with state and local leaders

•           Continued interaction with Monument Health

•           Continued Hill City community outreach

•           To address travel and tourism, tight connection and interaction with Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce and other travel-related agencies have been established

•           Best practices model to address any future legislation necessary to protect public safety has been created

Skorzewski also spelled out the legislative thought process, which entails of:

•           Decisions will be based on reliable sourced facts, data, risks and exposures

•           Looking ahead and future-casting

•           Process will be nimble, and legislation can be created and enacted quickly

•           Situational events will trigger gatherings of the Hill City Common Council to discuss all information available to make sound decisions

• Any legislation created will be thoughtful and based on facts through discussion, eliminating the risk of any reaction-based decision making

• Enactment of legislation will follow the standard protocols and will require the majority of the council's vote to pass

The city also has an approach for when to take action. At the marks of no confirmed cases, 25 active cases and 50 active cases, it is suggested that the city creates legislation. When there are 100 active cases, 200 active cases and 400 or more active cases, the city suggests and/or requires action.

“Resulting action will be engagement of the council by the mayor to determine if it’s necessary to set up an emergency council meeting and if any new, possible legislation needs to be addressed,” Skorzewski said.

The cases need to be active for five days, she added, which will allow the city to proactively handle what is happening and take any reaction out of the city’s decision.

As the city progresses throughout the year — and situations with the COVID-19 pandemic change — the city will make changes to accommodate its needs.

These processes and models have been created to give Hill City community members an understanding of how city leadership will “thoughtfully” be handling the situation, Skorzewski said.

Like many, Skorzewski said she remains optimistic for the remainder of 2020. She said she remains a realist and understands that the city will see dips and abnormalities in tourism in general this year, but she is certain the city will make it through the pandemic and be stronger at the end.

And, she added, the practice of good personal hygiene is a good practice regardless.

“We live in America and continue to enjoy social freedoms,” she said. “Please ensure that you make the right personal decisions for yourselves. If anyone is in need of guidelines, recommendations or publications from the CDC or (DOH), you can contact city hall, and the staff here would be more than happy to help you with whatever you need.”

COVID-19 information and safety tips from the DOH

Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell. If experiencing symptoms or become ill, contact you medical provider.

If traveling by air, at the airport:

• Bring alcohol wipes and wipe down anything you are going to touch

• Bring snacks as food vendor options may be limited

• Bring hand sanitizer. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is allowing liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags

• TSA is asking travelers to use enhanced precautions during airport security screenings. Put personal items such as wallets, phones and keys into carry-on bags instead of plastic security bins

• Wash your hands before and after going through screening

On the plane:

• Wipe down the area where you are going to sit, including armrest and tray tables

• If anyone around you is sick, get off the plane

Road travel:

• Use drive-through or delivery for food

• Bring alcohol wipes and wipe down any areas you use during the trip

If staying in a hotel overnight:

• Head straight to a sink and wash your hands

• Bring your own pillow

• Disinfect surfaces known to be the most touched — remote control, light switches, bedside lamp switches, alarm clock, phone and bathroom sink

• Take the comforter off the bed. If you get chilly, pack cozy pajamas or your own blanket

Once home:

• Self quarantine for 14 days

• Avoid contact with other people, including family and friends

• Don’t share household items

Self monitor:

• Be alert for symptoms of COVID-19, especially a dry cough or shortness of breath

• Take your temperature every morning and night and write it down

• Call your healthcare provider if you have trouble breathing or a fever (100.4 degrees)

• Don’t seek medical treatment without calling first

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