Facing the challenge of remote learning on an isolated reservation with limited access to computers and wireless service, leaders of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in central South Dakota used federal funding, help from a non-profit tech firm and a dose of ingenuity to create their own local network to help children learn amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To protect vulnerable residents, Native American educators have moved almost exclusively to remote teaching and learning, which is creating new challenges to an already stressed education system. Even after improving access to computers and the internet, Native educators worry that critical educational, spiritual and emotional connections created during in-person learning cannot be duplicated and that Native students will fall further behind in their learning.
South Dakota laws place a great burden on pedestrians to be safe on or along state roadways and create a high legal standard for prosecutors or civil attorneys to prove that drivers were responsible in vehicle versus pedestrian accidents, legal experts say. The laws may come into play soon as an investigation continues into a fatal accident involving South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who struck and killed Joseph Boever on a rural highway on Sept. 12.
Some environmentalists and farm groups are concerned about Gov. Kristi Noem's proposed merger of the state Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in part because almost no substantive details about the new agency have been released, but also because the move will combine the agency that promotes agriculture and agricultural development with the agency tasked with regulating agriculture.
Even with the state economy mostly up and running, many restaurants continue to struggle as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Employees have lost jobs, owners are fighting to pay bills and stay open, and communities are facing the loss of eateries that serve as foundations for dining and socializing.
State health officials say they have ramped up contact-tracing efforts and are comfortable they are effectively reducing the spread of COVID-19. But some experts worry that without more testing and faster results, and an increase in the contact-tracing workforce, that the virus will continue to spread across the state and nation and slow the economic recovery.
Unemployment and other financial challenges have pushed an increasing number of South Dakotans who rent homes or apartments to the brink of eviction, with many turning to government assistance or charities to get money for rent. Experts worry that as some government benefits dry up and charitable resources run out, even more renters may soon be at risk of losing stable housing.
Some individuals, businesses and farm operations in South Dakota are likely to declare bankruptcy in the coming months due to economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, financial experts predict. High unemployment, an increased reliance on credit cards, mounting debt and the recent loss of federal aid will cause some, including those who long felt financially stable, to face the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy.
Aug. 3, 2020 update: The number of cases in this outbreak continues to rise. The state Department of Health has now confirmed that 93 campers and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 after an outbreak took place at the popular Christian summer camp located near Keystone. Camp operators say they have closed the camp as a result. The state investigation into the outbreak is continuing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced dozens of community theaters across South Dakota to close for several months, costing the theater groups significant amounts of revenue and placing hardship on employees, volunteers and communities that thrive on theater as a creative outlet. As theater groups try to return to putting on shows, worries persist over safety at performances and whether a continued shutdown could push some organizations to the brink of closure.
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