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Stanley County Halts In-Person School and Sports Due To COVID
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For the rest of September, Stanley County Schools has suspended in-person instruction and extra-curricular activities due to COVID-19, Superintendent Daniel Hoey said.

“COVID has made its arrival in the Stanley County School District,” Hoey told the Capital Journal, “both in a positive test and in the practice of quarantining. We chose to move to a distance learning format yesterday (Sunday).”

Hoey went on to say that, since Stanley County is such a small school district, giving numbers of staff or students, or their classes or grades, would make it too simple for the community to figure out details that would be best left personal.

Also because of its own small size, and the country school’s close-knit community, “the Cheyenne School is conducting regular attendance and regular school. They have not been impacted,” Hoey said.

The website announcement also stated, “During distance learning, all athletic and other extra-curricular activities will be suspended. Plans are for extra-curricular activities to resume Thursday, Oct. 2. Homecoming 2020 will be pushed back one week to October 5-9.” Hoey later added to the Capital Journal, “These are suspended, not canceled; we hopefully will be able to do rescheduling.”

“We have a finite number of substitute teachers,” Hoey said. “When you have a larger need than what can be attended to, you have to adjust. This will be the Achilles Heel for most school districts in South Dakota. Looking at Sioux Falls and at other smaller schools such as our own, they do not have an endless amount of substitutes.”

“At the beginning of our school year, we adjusted our calendar,” Hoey said, referring to making the first two Wednesdays in-service staff days rather than in-person class days. “The two professional adjustment days were designed for this exact occurrence. We have been preparing for — not as in ‘if’ but — ‘when’ we would be impacted by COVID.” He added, if everything still works for the best, the school will be done with full-time distance learning on Sept. 30 and it will return to a somewhat normal fashion on Thursday, Oct. 1. “We tried to be, as much as we could be, proactive rather than reactive.”

“Mirroring Superintendent Kelly Glodt (Pierre School District), I believe people must bear personal responsibility to their own health and to the health of those around us. Our responsibility does not reside within just the public and private schools,” Hoey said.

“Due to staff exposure and subsequent quarantining, all classes junior kindergarten through 12th grade at Stanley County in Fort Pierre will be transitioning to distance learning,” read the website announcement written by Hoey. “School will continue as normal for Cheyenne School. There will be no school on Monday, Sept. 21. Distance Learning will begin Tuesday, Sept. 22 and continue through Wednesday, Sept. 30. Traditional classes will resume Thursday, Oct. 1.”

The website continued, “Students in grades 3-12 must have a device for Google Classroom and other distance learning activities.” It details how parents could be sure their students had or could get their textbooks, iPads, and Chromebooks. “Expect communications from your child’s classroom teachers. Blessings, Daniel Hoey, superintendent.”

The Stanley County GOLD program (Great Opportunities for Learning & Development) is directed by Kristie Maher. An after-school community children’s program in Fort Pierre, this is GOLD’s second year of operation. “We have a few over 50 kids every day, with 66 enrolled. At this point, when the school closes, we close,” Maher said, adding this will also be closed through the end of September.

She said that GOLD’s lone full-time staff member is her, and the other 15 staff members range from four to 30 hours per week. “Some are substitutes; there’s a wide range in there.”

“We have planning works and reporting to do. And we have training and on-site meetings. We will be putting together a plan in case the school’s virtual learning has to continue, so we can serve some students during these times,” Maher said. “Certainly we are concerned for the safety of our kids, and we support the school. If we stayed open, it would be defeating the purpose of this hard thing that the school had to do.”

“During the school year, we basically offer two hours on school days and all day on Fridays. During the summer, we tried some virtual learning, with some success. We did smaller groups, and did outdoor programs on site, and some good Zoom items. We have, and are continuing to put together, the best plans we can come up with,” Maher added.

As of Monday, the South Dakota Department of Health lists seven active COVID-19 infections for all of Stanley County. This is the highest number the county has experienced.


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The Whip: Can South Dakota's Thune get Trump's Supreme Court nominee confirmed?
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  • 4 min to read

(UPDATED FROM ORIGINAL ONLINE VERSION)

Abortion and same-sex marriage, both of which are legal because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, are only two of the issues Republicans and Democrats are going to argue about when it comes to filling the seat left by the Friday death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As the second-ranking Republican in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate, South Dakota’s John Thune is getting plenty of national media coverage because President Donald Trump said he plans to nominate a replacement for Ginsburg within days.

“I believe Americans sent a Republican president and a Republican Senate to Washington to ensure we have an impartial judiciary that upholds the Constitution and the rule of law. We will fulfill our obligation to them. As Leader McConnell has said, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate,” Thune said late Friday.

On Monday, Thune continued pressing forward during a Fox News interview with Neil Cavuto:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54YQB28pZZg.

“When there is a time of divided government, obviously, that’s a different circumstance than when you have a party in The White House and a party controlling the Senate,” Thune said in part. This is in reference to Thune’s 2016 opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. This vacancy was ultimately filled by Gorsuch.

In a Saturday tweet clearly directed squarely at members of the Republican Party, Trump stated: “@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”

Ginsburg died Friday at her home in Washington, D.C. of pancreatic cancer at age 87. She had served since her 1993 appointment by President Bill Clinton.

Known as a liberal and strong advocate for abortion access, Ginsburg’s death leaves the Supreme Court with only eight members: Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

After Trump already saw a GOP-controlled Senate confirm Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, Democrats fear a third Trump nominee confirmed by a Republican Senate would endanger the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion. There are several other matters that concern Democrats about another Trump nominee, particularly the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages.

Thune’s Role and the Battleground

Elected in 2004 by defeating longtime U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Thune has now reached the status of majority whip in the Senate, meaning the only Republican with higher ranking in the chamber is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Late Friday, Thune made it clear he believes the Senate should act to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg. Presently, Republicans maintain a 53-47 advantage in seats in the Senate. This means that if Vice President Mike Pence were to act in his constitutional capacity to break a tied Senate vote, Trump and his allies must get at least 50 senators to vote for the president’s nominee.

This may be a challenge, however, as at least two GOP senators have already said they will not support a Trump nominee introduced before Nov. 3: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on Nov. 3,” Collins said on Saturday. “In order for the American people to have faith in their elected officials, we must act fairly and consistently—no matter which political party is in power.”

Elected first in 1996 and seeking a fifth six-year term, Collins faces a strong Democratic challenger in Sara Gideon, who has received plenty of campaign cash by blasting Collins for voting in favor of Kavanaugh two years ago.

Murkowski, meanwhile, voiced her opposition to the appointment on Sunday.

“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed. I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election – less than two months out – and I believe the same standard must apply,” Murkowski said.

Two other GOP Senate members who may vote against a Trump nominee include:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado; and

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

Gardner is a first-term GOP senator facing a stern challenge from former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Late Monday, Gardner seemed to indicate he would support a Trump Supreme Court pick.

“I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm,” Gardner stated.

Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, is known for being something of a thorn in Trump’s side. However, early Tuesday, Romney said he would not stop a Trump nominee who he believes is qualified. 

“The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” Romney said.

There are two relatively conservative Democrats in the Senate who represent states Trump is heavily favored to carry in the Electoral College: West Virginia and Alabama. They may be in play for Republicans looking to get at least 50 votes in the Senate.

“In this time of sorrow, I pray that our country can unite in sending our most heartfelt condolences to her children, grandchildren and all who mourn the loss of this courageous woman,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said of Ginsburg.

Also, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, called Ginsburg a “true trailblazer in the legal field.”

“Beyond her legal acumen, Justice Ginsburg will also be remembered for her sharp wit, her tireless advocacy for voting rights, and her historic role in fighting for a more equal society for women across the country. She will be greatly missed,” Jones added.


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Ginsburg's body to lie in Supreme Court for viewing; flags ordered to half-staff by Noem, Trump
  • Updated

The body of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 23 and Thursday, Sept. 24, according to a news release on Monday from the Court.

Ginsburg died Friday, Sept. 18. She was 87 and had pancreatic cancer.

A private ceremony will be take place at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday in the Great Hall of the Court, attended by Ginsburg’s family, close friends and members of the court.

After that, the public will be able to view her casket under the portico at the top of the front steps of the court on Wednesday and Thursday.

A private interment ceremony for Ginsburg will be held next week in Arlington National Cemetery where her husband is buried, according to the news release from Kathleen Arberg of the court’s public information office.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Saturday ordered flags in the state to be at half-staff from sundown Saturday until Ginsburg is interred.

“Bryon and I are keeping Justice Ginsburg’s family and friends in our prayers during this difficult time,” Noem stated via news release.

Noem’s order follows President Donald Trump’s national order on flags at half-staff. On Friday, Trump released the following statement through The White House:

“Today, our Nation mourns the loss of a trailblazer, not only in the field of law, but in the history of our country. Ruth Bader Ginsburg served more than 27 years as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was a loving wife to her late husband Martin, and a caring mother to her two children Jane and James.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an inspiration to all Americans. Having lost her older sister and mother before graduating high school, she entered law school as both a wife and a mother, and one of the few women in her class. After graduating from law school in 1959, she worked tirelessly for more than 34 years as a litigator and jurist and, in 1993, she became just the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. Renowned for her powerful dissents at the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg epitomized powerful yet respectful argument; that you can disagree with someone without being disagreeable to them. Justice Ginsburg’s work helped bring about greater equality for women, secure rights for the disabled, and will continue to influence our Nation for generations to come. In addition to her quick mind, she brought flair to the bench with her stylish jabots and her warm friendships among colleagues, even those with whom she often disagreed, most notably with the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

A fighter to the end, Justice Ginsburg defeated cancer and the odds numerous times — all while continuing to serve on the Court. Her commitment to the law and her fearlessness in the face of death inspired countless “RBG” fans, and she continues to serve as a role model to countless women lawyers. Her legacy and contribution to American history will never be forgotten.

As a mark of respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the United States, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including section 7 of title 4, United States Code, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”


Shown is a highly magnified photo of the virus that creates COVID-19.


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South Dakota Breaks 200 COVID-19 Deaths
  • Updated

4 (Same as Friday)

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Hughes County, according to the South Dakota Department of Health as of 4 p.m Monday.

154 (+ 19 from Friday)

Active COVID-19 cases in Hughes County as of 4 p.m. Monday.

7 (+ 2 from Friday)

Active COVID-19 cases in Stanley County as of 4 p.m. Monday.

6,786,352Total COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 4 p.m. Monday.

199,024Deaths attributed to COVID-19 across the U.S. as of 4 p.m. Monday.

18,869 (+ 794 from Friday)

Total COVID-19 cases in South Dakota, according to the state Department of Health as of 4 p.m. Monday.

2,890 (+ 81 from Friday)

Active COVID-19 cases in South Dakota as of 4 p.m. Monday.

202 (+ 4 from Friday)

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in South Dakota.

161 (+ 17 from Friday)

People “currently” hospitalized for COVID-19 in South Dakota.


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New power substation north of Pierre approved
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During a joint meeting last week, the Pierre City Commission and the Hughes County Commission voted as one, and unanimously, 8-0, to approve zoning changes to allow East River Electric Co-op to build a new substation north of Pierre.

Because the new substation is in the extra-territorial area between the city and county, both commissions have to approve such a move.

Hughes County Commissioners Connie Hohn, Chairman Randy Vance and Norm Weaver — a quorum of the five-member panel — sat in with the full City Commission’s five members in City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

It was a plan already approved by zoning panels in each local government. No one showed up for the public hearing that day to speak for or against it.

City Planner Sharon Pruess said one homeowner who lives near the planned substation talked to her, concerned the new substation would lower the value of his home. And one person submitted a written objection to the plan, she said. No one showed up to the meeting on Sept. 15, however.

The new substation will be at the corner of Range Road and Highway 1804, about a mile north of the Mickelson Law Enforcement complex that is on U.S. Highway 14 on the north edge of the city. It’s just southeast of a housing development.

John Knofczynski, compliance manager with East River Electrical Cooperative based in Madison, South Dakota, told the joint panel of commissioners that the co-op wholesales electrical power locally to Oahu Electric, which distributes electricity to retail customers in Hughes County and beyond.

East River has a couple dozen other customers for its wholesale power which it obtains mostly from WAPA, the Western Area Power Administration and from Basin Electric based in North Dakota. The administration supplies Pierre’s municipal power utility with most of its electricity; the rest comes from Missouri River Energy Services based in Sioux Falls.

The federal WAPA markets and distributes the hydroelectric power generated at about 56 dams across the West, including Oahe Dam at Pierre and Fort Pierre.

East River Co-op — as with the city of Pierre, which runs its own municipal electrical utility, and WAPA — is a member of the Southwest Power Pool that covers much of the western U.S.

That means the electrical cooperative is supposed to, well, cooperate with other electrical cooperatives and utilities and wholesalers, to avoid duplicating parts of the electrical grid and to expand in ways that help, not hurt, surrounding power providers, Knofczynski told the Capital Journal.

So he came to get the votes of the city and county last week.

Part of the deal is that East River will buy 8.7 acres from the city, which owns a quarter-section, or 160 acres, at the site off Range Road. Part of the deal also is a 4,175-foot corridor of easement for a transmission line from the new substation to the "Ash Tap."

The City Commission already has informally approved of the idea, but a public hearing on "the exchange of real property" from the city to East River Co-op will be held at the City Commission meeting at 5:45 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29 in City Hall. 

"All interested parties are welcome to give written or oral comment," on the property exchange between the city and East River Electrical Cooperative which will "allow the city to access and utiliize a 115 kilo-volt bay" that will interconnect the city's electrical system with East River, improving it, according to a notice signed by Mayor Steve Harding.

By the first week in October, East River plans to begin work on the site and if things go as planned, the new substation should be operating by mid- May, Knofczynski said.

Based in Madison, East River has about 3,000 line-miles in eastern South Dakota. It’s found some new customers around this area.

Knofczynski said the construction of the big Ringneck Energy ethanol-making plant at Onida was a latter straw that convinced East River it needed to update its system around here with the big demand the plant added.

The new substation, once it’s up and operating by mid-May or so, will improve service in this region, he said.

East River will build a new 750 kV line with new towers on the south side of Perch Place/205th Street and use the current line on the north side of the road, Knofczynski said.

It means East River will be tied into Pierre’s electric system in a direct way that will add benefits.

He said that the city would notice improved service on its system and East River’s increased presence will mean more eyes monitoring the grid hereabouts and more efficiency all around.

City Commissioner Vona Johnson asked him how that would look. Knofczynski said the added transmission line will mean added redundancy to the city’s system, so that if there is a transmission power outage, no residential customer’s lights will go dark because the added transmission capacity and new substation will mean an automatic switch over will take care of the smooth delivery of watts and volts and such.

“That is the goal, anyway, that any one outage on the system would not affect anybody’s power,” Knofczynski said.


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COVID-19 cases continue to rise in S.D. K-12 schools, women's prison
  • Updated

South Dakota’s K-12 schools continue to see increases in COVID-19 cases, as many school districts begin to revise their mitigation plans. From Sept. 13-19, the South Dakota State Department of Health reported 261 new infections across all K-12 schools, up from 207 new cases the week of Sept. 6-12.

South Dakota’s K-12 schools now have 963 total cases, up from 668 the week of Sept. 6-12. Six hundred seventy-eight of those cases are now recovered. Of the 963 cases, 674 are among students and 289 are staff, according to data from the state health department.

Last week, as a result of more infected students and hundreds of close contacts quarantined from school, the Pierre School District approved moving instruction for T.F. Riggs High School to a hybrid learning system, starting with a school-wide virtual learning day on Monday. As of Monday, the school district has 14 cases, 11 of which are students and three being staff members. The list of active COVID cases in the district is updated each Monday on its website, https://pierre.k12.sd.us/.

On Sunday, Stanley County Schools announced that all schools would be moving to online instruction for one month starting on Tuesday due to “staff exposure and subsequent quarantining,” according to an update from Superintendent Daniel Hoey on the district’s website. Extracurricular activities and sports are also suspended. Traditional classes are scheduled to resume Thursday, Oct. 1, and extracurriculars the following day.

The COVID-19 cluster in the South Dakota Women’s Prison, located in the Solem Public Safety Center in Pierre, has also continued to rise. There are now 116 total cases at the prison as of Monday morning, according to the state health department. At the main prison, six inmates tested positive for COVID, and 109 inmates are infected at the Pierre Community Work Center, according to an update from the Department of Corrections on Monday. This is an increase from last week, when only one positive case was reported in the main prison and 105 cases at the PCWC.

As of Sept. 17, there are 102 inmates housed at PCWC and 307 inmates housed in the Women’s Prison and Unit E, according to South Dakota Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Michael Winder.

“Because of the number of positive cases, those inmates who had previously tested positive and those who tested positive during the mass testing were moved to the PCWC, which is located east of the Women’s Prison. Inmates at PCWC who did not test positive were moved to the Women’s Prison. Those inmates who were identified as close contacts to those who tested positive are on quarantine status at the Women’s Prison,” Winder told the Capital Journal last week.

Among staff, five tested positive at the PCWC, which remains unchanged from last week. The minimum security Unit E has seen no cases among inmates or staff at all.

“All inmates are required to wear masks, and DOC staff is placing an extra emphasis on proper hygiene, cleaning, and hand washing. PCWC staff are wearing personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, and face shields/goggles,” Winder said.

Cases among South Dakota’s colleges, universities and technical colleges, on the other hand, are slowly decreasing. From Sept. 13-19, 85 new infections were reported to the state health department, down from 162 new infections the week prior. There are now 1,172 total cases among SD higher education institutions, up from 1,053 last week. One thousand and forty-three of those cases are recovered. Of the total cases, 1,115 are among students and 57 are staff.

Overall, as of Monday morning, the state health department reported 173 new cases in South Dakota, nine new hospitalizations, 126 recoveries, and no new deaths. Overall, there are 18,869 total cases, 2,890 of which are active and 15,777 recovered cases. In total, there have been 1,297 hospitalizations, with 161 of them in effect as of Monday. The total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in South Dakota reached 202 on Monday.