WOONSOCKET — With a resolution passed Monday, Woonsocket became the second South Dakota community to implement business restrictions and prohibit large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
No positive cases or community spread had been identified in Woonsocket or elsewhere in Sanborn County as of Tuesday, but City Finance Officer Tara Weber told The Daily Republic the decision to implement business restrictions, which was made by the city council Monday night, was based on recommendations in the executive order made by Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday.
The resolution went into effect on 11:59 p.m. Monday and will be lifted tentatively on May 4, but it gives the city council authority to adjust the timeline as necessary in the community of about 700 people, which is the county seat in Sanborn County.
"We can terminate it if we need to, or we can extend it if we need to. They just followed the orders that were passed down by the governor," Weber said.
Woonsocket's resolution's passage came a day after the city of Huron and Beadle County put legally-binding restrictions in place, making those the first local governments in the state to do so. Beadle County had 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the time its resolution had passed and 13 as of Tuesday and was the first county in which community spread was suspected.
Similarly worded ordinances and resolutions have been proposed in Rapid City and Brookings, and Yankton passed the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday after a nearly four-hour meeting during which city commissioners debated the how long to put restrictions in place and which types of businesses should be exempt.
While Yankton's ordinance recommends businesses begin implementing changes Thursday, it won't be legally enforceable until the city commission can hold a second reading next week. Once amendments discussed Tuesday are made and the ordinance is officially passed, people in Yankton who violate it can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. The same penalty applies to Woonsocket's resolution, but since that is a resolution and not an ordinance, it's already in effect.
"We've all got to be united in a way we never have been in modern times to stay away from each other," Yankton Mayor Nathan Johnson said during the commission meeting, which was held via teleconference.
Jeff Poyer, owner of Skeeters Bar and Grill in Woonsocket, said he wasn't aware the city was considering shutting down bars and restaurant dining rooms or that a meeting was being held to discuss the possibility.
"They had a meeting and brought me the paperwork at about 7:30 or so last night and said that at 11:55, we were done," Poyer told The Daily Republic on Tuesday. "If there would've been some notification and advance warning, (if they) gave us some time, we wouldn't have had to put in the orders to our suppliers. We put in orders (Monday) that we're committed to taking now, when they show up — stuff that we would not have ordered knowing we were going to be shut down."
Ideally, Poyer said, he would have had a week's notice before the changes went into place, and he was surprised to hear restrictions were implemented in a small town like Woonsocket, before larger cities like Mitchell.
Poyer said until Monday, Skeeters' business had been as good as or better than usual in recent weeks, and he didn't think the majority of Woonsocket was especially scared about the situation. He said he's worried that will change now that the town has made changes, which could impact carryout sales, but said he's hopeful the community will continue to support his business.
"I'm still trying to process it. Being a small town, I think we'll get our customers back. But I don't think that we'll be able to make enough money during the shutdown to pay the bills," Poyer said.
Note: An earlier version of this story was unclear on what aspects of Woonsocket businesses were closed by the city’s recently passed resolution. The resolution closed restaurants’ dining rooms, but those businesses are still permitted to be open for delivery and carryout services.
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.