Professor John Thune: U.S. Government 101


By Sen. John Thune

Hey, parents. I know these are crazy times we’re living in, and many of you have now unexpectedly added “teacher” to your long list of titles, which also likely includes “coach,” “cook,” and “hall monitor.”

Hopefully there haven’t been too many visits to the principal’s office. While I don’t have a solution to everything you’re facing right now, I’ve got something that I hope will at least help.

More on that in a minute, though.

Throughout this coronavirus outbreak, Congress has been focused on providing support and relief to the American people. We’ve already passed, and the president has signed, three relief packages that are already helping families, workers, small businesses, and the country’s health care community.

We’ve prioritized things like ensuring anyone who needs to get tested for the coronavirus can do so at no cost to themselves. We’re making sure that no-strings-attached emergency cash payments make it into Americans’ hands as soon as possible and that small businesses have the support they need to keep their operations open and employees on payroll.

Importantly, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals are getting additional and much-needed resources to both treat patients and help protect themselves on the front lines of this battle.

Everyone is feeling the effect of this ongoing pandemic, which is why we tried to make it a little easier for graduates to manage their student loan debt. I’m glad a bill I helped write was included in the last relief package the president signed.

It will give employers the option to help graduates pay down student loan debt by up to $5,250 per employee each year tax-free. The new law will also allow graduates to defer payments and interest for six months – penalty-free – on qualified federal student loans.

And for those Americans who are out of work as a result of this crisis, we’re strengthening states’ unemployment benefit programs for those who need them the most.

Our recent efforts have also helped the farming and ranching community, which has faced hurdle after hurdle these last few years.

At my urging, the latest bill replenished the critically important Commodity Credit Corporation and allocated nearly $10 billion in emergency funding to help producers in South Dakota and around the country.

There’s so much support for this effort that I teamed up with U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson to lead a bipartisan group of senators and members of the House – a group that represents more than 25 percent of the entire Congress – to urge the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take immediate action using the resources we provided in the new law.

Everyone is still adjusting to this new lifestyle where social distancing and teleworking are now considered normal, especially parents who’ve now become at-home educators.

Since many schools are closed for the foreseeable future – some for the remainder of the school year – I wanted to do my part to help those parents, students, and teachers who are adjusting to this new at-home learning environment on top of everything else they’re facing these days.

That’s why I decided to record a short video lesson about the basics of the federal government that parents can show to their at-home students or teachers can work into curriculums they might already be using for virtual learning experiences.

I’m hoping it will help provide educators and students with a tiny bit of additional content that could help diversify virtual lesson plans during these unusual times.

If you’re interested in using my video lesson, you can find it on my social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter (@SenJohnThune), or by visiting www.thune.senate.gov/COVID19. If you find it helpful and would be interested in additional lessons, please leave a comment and let me know.

By visiting the same website, you can find additional coronavirus-related updates from me and my staff, plus a ton of helpful links and resources that will help South Dakotans better navigate this crisis. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, call, email, or write, and we’ll get it to you as soon as possible.

We’re learning more and more each day about what bonds us as Americans because we’re all experiencing and coping with this crisis together.

We’re also learning about new ways to contribute to our communities and stay connected with friends and family even when we’re afar. In these uncertain times, I urge you to embody the examples of kindness we’re seeing in South Dakota and around the country and continue to share stories of hope, support, and generosity when you see them.

Together, We Can Do This

By Governor Kristi Noem
April 3, 2020

With the COVID-19 situation continuing to be very fluid in South Dakota, it is important for us to remember that this a marathon, not a sprint. In today’s 24/7 news cycle, the information coming at us on TV or social media can easily overwhelm us.

By now, many of you have heard me say that I’m relying on the science, facts, and data to drive the state’s response to the virus. Our team’s decision-making is guided by the realities on the ground in South Dakota, rather than trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach.

My role with respect to public safety is something I take very seriously. But it’s also important for us to remember that it’s the people themselves who are primarily responsible for their safety.

Under our Constitutions at the state and federal levels, the people have expansive freedoms – they are free to exercise their rights to work, worship, and play – or to stay at home, or to conduct social distancing.

Since the middle of February, I have been very clear that our people need to take their responsibility for personal health and safety seriously – that they should be practicing good public hygiene and social distancing.

And, with few exceptions, the people of South Dakota are doing a tremendous job. We have bent the curve a great deal. We have kept our hospital capacity at a manageable level.

And we continue to push out our peak infection day far into the future.

This is great news, and we must stay the course.

We must remember that the objective here is not to stop the spread of COVID-19; the science tells us that is not possible. What we are trying to accomplish is to slow the spread, and flatten the curve, so that our people and our healthcare system are not overwhelmed.

This will give us more time to develop successful treatments and, hopefully, an effective vaccine.

South Dakota is not New York City, and our sense of personal responsibility, our resiliency, and our already sparse population density put us in a great position to manage the spread of the virus without needing to resort to the kinds of draconian shutdowns adopted by big coastal cities or even other countries.

Jointly, with Department of Health officials as well as officials from each of the three hospital systems (Avera, Monument Health, and Sanford Health), our team has illustrated exactly what our projections look like for the next several months.

Now, given the fluidity of the situation, our estimates are dynamic, not static. As the situation on the ground changes, we will continue to be flexible in our response to that new information.

My team has been thoughtful, strategic, and guided by the science, facts and data from what is happening on the ground here, in South Dakota, since January.

These new estimates are a guide. We will continue to refine them as we learn more about this virus and it’s impact on our state.

Again, I want to thank the people of South Dakota for doing everything they have thus far. Together, we will get through this.

[To review our current projections for COVID-19 in South Dakota, please visit Covid.SD.Gov .]

Social Distancing in the Wild

Submitted Photo
The Stratobowl Trail overlooks the green meadow where scientists launched record-breaking balloon flights in 1934 and 1935.

Exploring South Dakota
By John Andrews/ Editor at South Dakota Magazine

The coronavirus has upended lives around the world. Our routines as we knew them just a few short weeks ago no longer exist. Many of us, including the South Dakota Magazine staff, are working from home.

Businesses are shuttered, gatherings of more than 10 people are forbidden and — in the event that folks do need to leave their houses — a 6-foot buffer between humans at the very least must be maintained, all in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

One refrain that keeps popping up, though, is that the outdoors are never closed. We try to take a walk around Yankton every day that the weather allows (and we all know that the transition from winter to spring in South Dakota can be wildly unpredictable).

The movement and fresh air do wonders for both our physical and mental health. With that in mind, here are three favorite hiking trails that I’ve discovered while on the road. Later, in our July/August issue, we’ll have even more ways you can safely enjoy the outdoors in South Dakota during what is shaping up to be an unprecedented summer.

Stay safe and healthy by exploring these or other trails near you.

Stratobowl Trail

It’s a short and easy hike from busy Highway 16 to the spot where scientists made history in 1935. The Stratobowl Rim Trail begins on a gravel maintenance route about 2 miles west of Bear Country USA (look for a closed gate and maybe a parked car or two).

The path is wide and well maintained, but there are plenty of large rocks along the way, so be sure to have sturdy footwear.

Nearly every step of the 0.8-mile trail follows the well-worn road through the tall pine trees of the Black Hills National Forest. The trail branches off to the left near the end, and a narrower path leads to four granite slabs that tell the story of the Stratobowl balloon launches of 1934 and 1935 that sought to collect information about the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

During the second launch, scientists floated more than 72,000 feet into the stratosphere, higher than any human had previously traveled.

An overlook tucked among the limestone cliffs provides a panoramic view of the Black Hills and the bowl below. Plan about an hour for the out and back hike.

Alkali Trail

This short and family-friendly trail takes hikers through a variety of Black Hills landscapes: a creek valley, ponderosa pine forests and prairie meadows, all in the shadow of Bear Butte.

From Interstate 90, take exit 34. Follow a gravel road toward Sturgis known locally as the Old Stone Road or the Fort Meade Backcountry Byway. Around a bend the road crosses Alkali Creek.

After another few hundred feet, you’ll find the gravesite of Black Hills outlaw Curley Grimes. Across the road is a small campground and access to the Alkali Trail.

Grab a brochure at the trailhead and follow along to each of 10 marked posts along the path.

Starting at the creek and progressing through the woods, into a clearing and back, each stop provides a natural history lesson — Native Americans used the green ash trees to fashion poles, bows and arrows; rocks covered with lichens are slowly decomposing into soil; patches of snowberry provide excellent winter cover for deer.

The Alkali Trail is slightly more than half a mile long. Allow about 45 minutes for a leisurely hike.

Gavins Point Nature Trail

The Gavins Point Nature Trail is a family-friendly path within the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, about 9 miles west of Yankton. A kiosk at the trailhead offers brochures that explain the types of trees and insects found in the forest.

Kids can use them as a scavenger hunt guide as they traverse the 1.2-mile dirt path. They’ll have fun identifying the Eastern red cedars, bur oaks and old cottonwoods that grow thick along the Missouri River bluffs, and the millipedes and spiders that crawl around the undergrowth.

Adults will appreciate the exercise. Two wooden bridges, a set of stairs and several inclines account for the trail’s moderate rating.

About halfway through, hikers are rewarded with a magnificent view of the shimmering water and chalkstone bluffs of Lewis and Clark Lake.

Help during COVID-19 crisis

By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, many are concerned about access to healthcare. Fortunately, tele-health services have become more common and are especially helpful for people living in rural areas, where a clinic or hospital may be many miles away.

As we seek to limit the COVID-19 outbreak by encouraging keeping your distance from others, video chats or phones calls with medical professionals have become easy and helpful ways to receive care, all from the comfort of our homes.

The best way to prevent getting COVID-19 is to avoid potential exposure. This means not going to busy restaurants or events where there are large groups of people.

It also means that if you feel ill, you should call, email or video chat with your doctor before going to their office to minimize the chance of spreading any illness to others.

Tele-health services allow patients to receive quality medical care without traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital, where they could get others sick.

As we know, seniors are especially susceptible to COVID-19. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that Medicare would immediately expand coverage to tele-health services across the nation.

This will allow seniors with health problems to stay home and avoid additional risk of exposure to coronavirus.

This is a win-win for patients and health care providers during this time of crisis.

Since South Dakota is a large, rural state where families can live a hundred miles or more from a healthcare facility, expanding tele-health services has been a priority of mine.

I’m a cosponsor of the CONNECT for Health Act, which would allow for permanent expanded tele-health services for Americans who utilize Medicare.

Our bipartisan bill would allow for certain current geographic restrictions and service restrictions to be waived, and would allow rural health clinics to provide tele-health services so that tele-health is accessible to even more individuals.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed legislation aimed at providing resources to state and local governments in their efforts to combat the coronavirus.

This legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, included language that waived certain federal restrictions preventing Americans from receiving tele-health care from some facilities. Now a number of options are available for South Dakotans wanting to connect with a doctor via video chat or phone call.

Both Avera and Sanford Health offer tele-health services to their patients. Monument Health in Rapid City is part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. Providers at Monument are able to participate in e-consultations with providers at the Mayo Clinic to come up with the best treatment plans for their patients in Rapid City.

The VA also offers tele-health services for veterans.

Avera recently opened the Helmsley Telehealth Education Center in Sioux Falls which will offer a national telehealth certification program so medical staff can learn the best methods for providing tele-health care.

As we continue to deal with COVID-19 and keep our distance from others, tele-health appointments are a good way for patients to seek medical attention without physically visiting a medical facility.

They’re also more affordable than a visit to the hospital.

We’ll continue working on legislation that makes it easier to access health care when you need it, no matter if you’re located in a rural or urban area.

It’s important that we all take care of our health during this COVID-19 outbreak, and tele-health appointments can help more people receive quality care.

Working Together, We’ll Beat the Coronavirus


By Sen. John Thune

The coronavirus is obviously a front-and-center issue for Americans in every corner of the country, and effectively fighting this outbreak will require an all-of-the-above approach. U.S. health officials are working around the clock to continue learning as much as possible about the virus, how to mitigate the spread, and how to protect our loved ones. The highest levels of the federal government are focused on keeping the American people safe by ensuring health care professionals in communities around the country are well-equipped in this fight.

This is a serious situation, but you don’t need a medical degree to help work toward our collective goal of ending this outbreak as soon as possible. There are things that every South Dakotan can be doing today to help lower the risk of spreading this disease, and I would encourage anyone who is looking for comprehensive information about coronavirus “dos” and “don’ts” to visit www.coronavirus.gov or www.covid.sd.gov.

For the rest of the story, pick up this week’s edition of the Winner Advocate or subscribe to the Winner Advocate at 1-605-842-1481!

Spring sports cancelled through April 5


The spring sports season has been cancelled through April 5 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic according to the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

Practice for spring sports is a “local decision” with the schools asked to make the decision based on CDC guidance, state guidance and the number of participants.

Monday’s decision does not impact the length of spring sports season and does not pertain to non-SDHSAA activities such as baseball, softball and rodeo.

“Much of the future of our events rest on the guidance from state and federal entities and what you are able to do as a school,” said SDHSAA executive director Dan Swartos.

“We are not trying to hold off on decisions, we are trying to take in all available information before making a decision and that information is constantly shifting.

I know you are all wrestling with the same type of decisions locally and I wish you well in that process,” said Swartos.

Track and field boys tennis, girls golf and Class B boys golf are all impacted by Monday’s announcement. This arrives three days after Gov. Kristi Noem ordered the postponement of the state basketball tournaments.

COVID-19

S.D. can test 900 for coronavirus

South Dakota health officials say the state has the ability to test about 900 people for the coronavirus.

To date, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surfaced in South Dakota. The Department of Health says it tested five people so far and all were negative.

Department spokesman Derrick Haskins said the state has about 1,900 tests for the virus but an individual would need to undergo a minimum of two of the tests, including an oral and a nasal swab, which means the the state can test about 900 people.

For the rest of the story, pick up this week’s edition of the Winner Advocate or subscribe to the Winner Advocate at 1-605-842-1481!

Staying informed on the Coronavirus


By Rep. Dusty Johnson

If you’ve turned on the news in the last month or so you’ve probably heard this word over and over: Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

This week, the president addressed the nation regarding the U.S. response to the outbreak.

So far, officials have determined more than 80,000 cases globally – the majority of them in China.

For the rest of the story, pick up this week’s edition of the Winner Advocate or subscribe to the Winner Advocate at 1-605-842-1481!

A Beardless Hobo and Other Homecoming Traditions

I cannot grow a beard. Whenever I try, it looks like those photos we all have of our children the first time they grab a pair of scissors and give themselves, or their favorite doll, a haircut: bald spot here, 3 inches of scraggly growth there.

That’s why I sadly never took part in one of my alma mater’s most time-honored homecoming traditions. The One Month Club at South Dakota State University is for students who want to look their hobo-est by the time Hobo Day arrives. Exactly a month before the homecoming game, men stop shaving their faces and women do the same with their legs. It’s all in good fun and a fine way to show school spirit, but I could never compete with my classmates who looked like the guys in ZZ Top after 30 days.

It’s homecoming season at colleges and universities around South Dakota, and when I thought of the One Month Club I wondered what unique traditions students observe at other schools. So I asked around.

One that warms my Scandinavian heart happens at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, where the students nominated for Viking Days king and queen don Norwegian sweaters. It seems appropriate for a school founded by Lutheran Scandinavians, and practical, too. I bet those sweaters take the chill off the cool October morning air on parade day. Incidentally, to celebrate Augustana’s 100th year in Sioux Falls, the school unveiled its version of the popular Monopoly board game, called Augieopoly. One of the game tokens is a Norwegian sweater modeled after one owned by the late Dr. Lynwood Oyos, a longtime history professor.

Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell crowns not one king and queen, but two. In addition to the royal pair that reigns over Blue & White Days, two members of the freshman class are chosen Beanie King and Beanie Queen. They perform many of the same duties as the homecoming court, but wear blue and white beanies, festooned with optional decorations. The tradition began in 1926 and included all members of the freshman class, but over the years has been whittled down to just two.

Students at Dakota State University in Madison enjoy a citywide scavenger hunt. The Student Services department hides a small statue called the Traveling Trojan somewhere on the DSU campus or around Madison. Clues are given on local radio and on the school’s Facebook page. Whoever finds the statue receives a prize package.

West River students incorporate the Black Hills in their homecoming traditions. During Swarm Week at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, students make an annual pilgrimage to a giant letter H that sits on a mountainside near campus. Visitors to Rapid City may have noticed a similar M on a hillside above the city. Students at the School of Mines make a homecoming trek to whitewash the M, a tradition that dates back to the very first M-Day on Oct. 5, 1912.

Alumni of other colleges and universities surely have their own favorite homecoming traditions. Hobo Day will always hold a special place for me. I’m pretty easy to spot watching the parade along Main Avenue or at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium for the football game. I’m the clean-shaven one.

Thousands Brave Weather for Annual Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park

PIERRE, S.D. – Over 15,700 visitors attended the 53rd Annual Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Friday morning, enduring the cold weather and the season’s first snowfall in the Black Hills.

Custer State Park also hosted its three-day arts festival in conjunction with the Buffalo Roundup. Crowds assembled throughout the celebration to enjoy a variety of entertainment under the big top, educational programs and vendors from all over the country.

“We weren’t sure what to expect Friday morning with the weather,” said park superintendent Matt Snyder. “Despite the cold conditions, we still had thousands and thousands of people come out and enjoy themselves over the weekend. I heard nothing but compliments from how well the park looked, to the variety of vendors at the Arts Festival. It was a successful event for us.”

The annual Roundup serves as a tool to help manage the park’s buffalo herd. About 250 buffalo will be sold at the park’s annual auction on Saturday, Nov. 17. For information on the auction, contact the park at 605.255.4515 or email CusterStatePark@state.sd.us.

Upcoming Buffalo Roundups will be held on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, and Friday, Sept. 25, 2020.