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  1. Dozens of South Dakota fairs, festivals and events have been cancelled in 2020 to reduce the risk of spreading the potentially deadly coronavirus. The cancellations have eliminated a significant source of revenue for many communities and the state and have been painful for organizers and patrons who look forward to the annual events that bolster community spirit and fund local programs.
  2. The death of a 27-year-old Brookings County farmer in February and the entrapment of a man in Hughes County in March have highlighted the dangers of handling grain in bins on farms in South Dakota and across the country. Grain bin accidents have plagued farmers for generations, but after a bad year for incidents last year, conditions this year may be even more dangerous due to wet weather in 2019 that led to a late harvest of damp, clumpy grain.
  3. As controversy swirls around roadway checkpoints implemented by two South Dakota Native American tribes -- with Gov. Kristi Noem threatening legal action if the checkpoints are not dismantled -- the story of the extensive, wide-ranging efforts of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to protect tribal and non-tribal residents on the reservation from COVID-19 has largely gone untold. The tribe's efforts have so far been successful in protecting a vulnerable population from the potentially deadly virus.
  4. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, most South Dakota colleges and universities are planning to bring students back to campuses for in-person classes this fall, but they are not totally sure how they will keep them safe and how many will show up. In addition to the logistical challenges, colleges across the state and country face the prospect of massive financial losses if enrollments drop or students choose to learn online rather than on campus.
  5. A group of economic development officials and a cadre of volunteers are joining forces to launch a new weekly newspaper in Kingsbury County, South Dakota, after two weekly papers closed on April 1. Using a new business model, and capitalizing on community spirit and volunteer talent, the group hopes to launch a new paper to take the place of the weeklies in De Smet and Lake Preston that closed due to financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  6. Self-employed people and others who don't qualify for unemployment benefits are not counted in official government data on unemployment, but in some cases they face the greatest barriers to survival amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to difficulty in obtaining financial help.
  7. News Watch was feted by two separate journalism organizations for its work in 2019, particularly agricultural coverage.
  8. With working conditions ripe for the spread of airborne illnesses, the meatpacking industry and federal regulators did not fully prioritize worker safety despite warnings and suggestions from oversight agencies. Now, as many meat plants, including the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, prepare to reopen soon due to a presidential order, experts worry that workers may be subjected to conditions that will continue to put them at risk.
  9. Despite the valiant efforts of administrators, teachers and parents to teach students remotely during widespread school closures, experts say many children in South Dakota and across the world -- particularly lower-income students and those with existing educational challenges -- will suffer a loss of learning from which it may be difficult and costly to fully recover.
  10. Hog farmers in South Dakota are selling animals at a loss, and may face the prospect of euthanizing pigs, if they cannot find places soon to process their finished animals. The closure of the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls and other pork processors across the Midwest due to the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced options for having hogs butchered and has led to a backlog of hogs that are fully grown and must be processed.
Inform. Enlighten. Illuminate.
About News Watch
South Dakota News Watch is an independent, nonprofit organization reporting stories that shed light on the issues and concerns of all citizens. As 2019 ends, we would like to thank our supporters for their generous contributions during the matching funds campaign and all year long. Because of you, South Dakota News Watch will continue the mission of bringing in-depth issues to light into the new year and beyond.