SPEARFISH — On Oct. 16, the South Dakota Municipal League circulated a letter signed by mayors from 13, First-Class municipalities throughout South Dakota, including that of Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke.

“We are writing to you with a simple ask, but one that we need everyone to take seriously. We need you to do your part. It is crucial that we are all aware of our behaviors.  Wear a mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained, keep your social interactions to small groups, wash your hands frequently, clean frequently touched surfaces often, and stay home if you feel sick. These may seem like small actions, but can make a big difference during this current surge we are experiencing in our state,” the letter read.

At Monday’s Spearfish City Council meeting, Boke announced that all city council and committee meeting would move back to an online format for the remainder of 2020. This includes regular City Council meetings, Public Works and Legal, Finance, and Public Safety, and Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Advisory committee meetings, and Planning commission meetings.

“As cases continue to increase, as they were expected to, we are just trying to do our part in mitigating as much as we can,” Boke said. “It’s a safe alternative that is also a pretty easy switch.”

Information for participating in the remote meetings, via the online platform Zoom or telephonically, would be available on meeting agendas, which are posted prior to the meetings on the City’s website, cityofspearfish.com. People wishing to provide any comments for public hearings, etc., are encouraged to do so in writing, via email, prior to the meeting, and may also do so during the remote meetings.

Boke said the city is continuing to engage with officials from Monument Health and Spearfish School District boards in order to monitor the spread of the virus throughout the community and decide how the three entities can provide a united front to help slow the spread.

The Spearfish School board held an emergency meeting Wednesday night where the decision was made to upgrade the school’s COVID-19 plan into Category 2. See related story on page 2.

“We were discussing how the community can assist the public schools,” Boke explained. “If our children are being masked up, how can we come along side that and ensure that they’re safe when they’re outside of school too.”

Boke said while those conversations are taking place, a citywide mask mandate is not off the table; however, officials are weighing that against the potential backlash of such a move.

“A mask mandate is very polarizing, you’re on one side or the other,” she said. “I personally mask up any time I go anywhere I think it’s the responsible thing to do in order to protect others.”

Ultimately, Boke said, the thresholds that would need to be crossed to necessitate a mask mandate would be left up to the guidance of health experts from Monument Health.

“I think the thresholds are really based on the feeling of our health care system, but we need to get in front of it,” she said. “We don’t want to wait until the hospital is totally overwhelmed because then we’re two weeks behind the curve.”

“Help us stop the spread,” Thomas Worsley, president of Spearfish Hospital and Hills Market at Monument Health, said in a prepared statement. “We are currently seeing extremely busy hospitals and clinics across our region. Our healthcare professionals are working hard to be there and take care of our community and will do everything we can to fulfill that mission. You can help us by masking up when appropriate and following those guidelines that have shown to be effective in limiting the virus’ spread.”

Boke said the city would meet with officials from Monument Health and Spearfish schools this week, and expects to have a cohesive plan moving forward; a plan she said as of now would be more message based, not ordinance based.

“I think early next week we will have a more solidified plan, she said.” “We want to make sure all of our messages are in line.”

In the meantime, the city of Spearfish recommends all citizens to follow the guidelines set forth by the South Dakota department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recommended CDC guidelines include:

• Practice social distancing, keeping at least 6 feet away from others, and when that is not possible.

Wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.

• Avoid groups of 10 or more people when social distancing is not possible.

Citizens are encouraged to pay their utility bills online or by utilizing the Utility Payment Dropbox outside of City Hall and utilize online and telephone services to conduct any other business they would normally conduct by entering city facilities. Contacts for the various city departments are available on the city’s website, cityofspearfish.com, by clicking on the appropriate department under the “Departments” header at the top of the homepage, or under the “I want to…” tab, under “Contact.” If someone must enter a city facility, they are encouraged to wear a mask.

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