Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender says public needs to take the pandemic 'more seriously'

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - With a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Black Hills, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender is urging residents again to take this pandemic 'more seriously.'

Mayor Allender said news about the Monument Health worker who tested positive for COVID-19 is an unfortunate, yet a predictable type of case.

Therefore once again, Allender is urging citizens to not step outside of their door unless it's necessary.

He said they are trying to adjust based on the new information that comes in and admits that already the city is behind by a week for not acting quickly enough.

"This is a perfect example of how government comes to the conclusion, implements some mitigation and finds out we should have done that a week ago," Allender said. "And there's no way to go back a week. So we have a week where we know we haven't acted quickly enough."

Allender said they are working out a deal with local hotels to house first responders who are interacting with individuals everyday on the front lines.

This way all the empty rooms can be used to help first responders self-quarantine instead of returning home.

Allender said the police department is scaling back due to the coronavirus by screening phone calls through dispatch, urging citizens to report online for property crimes and converting special units to have more officers work on patrol.

He said there are public safety employees self-quarantining for the past week and so far tests have returned negative.

As for snowbirds who live in Rapid City, he is encouraging them to self quarantine if they came from a highly infected area.

"One common comment from citizens is that government shouldn't run our lives and I'm going to take my chances. So there's a lot of narrow mindedness on this particular disease. You're welcome to take your chances but you're not welcome to infect the rest of us who are trying to be safe," Allender said.

He said plenty of people are asking more questions about the city ordinance with the aim to close or limit non-essential businesses amid coronavirus.

Allender said the ordinance is always subject to change but the intention is to create a reduction of gatherings.

"We don't want to alarm everyone here. We are not planning a city wide shut down or quarantine. There's good evidence that forced quarantine's don't work. That the success to mitigate this disease will be by the behavior chosen by each individual," Allender said.

Allender said Pennington County is considering a new ordinance to close or limit certain non-essential businesses. To discuss this, Allender is schedule for a special meeting at 9 a.m. on Friday.

The city will hold a special council meeting Friday night at 6 to have a second reading on the emergency ordinance.

If it passes, the ordinance will be effective immediately that Friday night and could potentially last until April 8. However, the council will decide if an extension is needed.