I.D. Weeks Library

Parking places at the University of South Dakota are usually hard to find. That wasn't the case on Monday, March 16, when this photo of the I.D. Weeks Library was taken.

Vermillion — Citing COVID-19 concerns, South Dakota’s six public universities will temporarily move to online classes March 23 with on-campus, in-person classes scheduled to resume April 6.

The South Dakota Board of Regents announced the decision Monday afternoon. Last week, the board extended spring break at the six schools through this Friday (March 20).

The six affected institutions include the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota State University in Brookings, Dakota State University in Madison, Northern State University in Aberdeen, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City and Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

The Board of Regents, which governs the state’s public universities, issued the following statement:

“It has been an unprecedented time in our state, country, and world as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone in the South Dakota Board of Regents’ system.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff throughout the state is our top priority and we continue to monitor the situation around the clock.

“Considering the continued high risk of exposure throughout the United States and in the interest of public safety, the Board of Regents is taking the following actions:

*Beginning Monday, March 23, all classes will be temporarily moved online

*On-campus, in-person classes are currently scheduled to resume on Monday, April 6.

The Board of Regents continues to monitor the COVID-19 developments and will announce any further changes, the SDBOR news release said.

“This is an evolving situation and the board will revisit this situation and communicate any changes in course delivery again on Friday, March 27,” the regents said.

USD President Sheila Gestring, whose institution enrolls around 10,000 students, announced Monday the university was transitioning to the online delivery of classes.

As of March 16, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at USD or in Vermillion, she noted.

“Course delivery for USD students will occur primarily through Zoom and Desire2Learn, USD’s learning management system. The semester will end at the previously scheduled time of May 8,” she said.

“USD students are urged to remain at their permanent residences to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Students who are unable to return to a permanent residence and who have not visited a Level 3 location may request to return by contacting housing@usd.edu. Limited dining services are available for those remaining on campus.”

All campus events through April 30 have been canceled. The USD Wellness Center and USD Vucurevich Children’s Center will also remain closed through Friday, April 3.

USD’s telehealth counseling services remain available for students in need. Appointments can be made by calling 605-658-3580.

The SDBOR commended the administrators and staff for their contributions during the pandemic.

“As leaders in higher education, we are thankful for our university presidents and their staff, who have worked tirelessly the past several weeks, providing wisdom and knowledge to help navigate these difficult times that still include a level of uncertainty,” the regents said.

Students, staff and the general public are encouraged to continue monitoring for new developments and announcements, the press release said.

“Please refer to university specific news releases and websites to stay up to date on the status of campus operations,” the board said.

At USD, officials are placing an emphasis on protecting the health of all individuals connected to the university, Gestring said.

“We remain united in our efforts to protect the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff,” she said. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our students, faculty and staff as we work through the challenges posed by this global pandemic.”

Gestring said she looked to the future and the resumption of normal operations on campus.

“I am confident in USD’s ability to continue serving and protecting its students, faculty and staff, and we look forward to seeing everyone again soon,” she said.

To learn more about USD’s response to COVID-19, visit usd.edu/COVID19.

Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.


USD has established a Coronavirus Task Force, working closely with the South Dakota Board of Regents and the South Dakota Department of Health, to continuously monitor the rapidly evolving, global COVID-19 pandemic.

As of March 18, there are no confirmed cases in Vermillion or at USD.

According to a statement on the university’s web page to inform the public and students, “USD is refining preparations for a range of contingencies and will communicate with you in a proactive and transparent manner. The best way you can prepare for COVID-19 is to take everyday precautions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often. If you are sick, stay home to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19.”

Students with questions and concerns are urged to reach out at president@usd.edu.

As of March 16, there are 10 cases of COVID-19 in South Dakota. The counties that have reported cases include Beadle, Charles Mix, Davison, Minnehaha (four), Pennington, McCook and Bon Homme. For a current count of cases in South Dakota, visit the South Dakota Department of Health website.

The USD website offers this advice:

Self-Quarantine Guidelines

With consideration to these vulnerable populations, USD has updated its self-quarantine guidelines:

If you have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or are under testing for suspected exposure to COVID-19, you are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days.

If you are worried that you may have been exposed through contact with a person whom you suspect might have been exposed to COVID-19, you are expected to self-quarantine until a medical provider has determined the significance of the contact.

For example, if your roommate works closely with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or is suspected of being positive for COVID-19, you are expected to self-quarantine until it is known whether or not an exposure is confirmed or 14 days have passed, whichever comes first.

If you visit a location identified as the highest notice level, “Warning Level 3,” you are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days. Learn more about COVID-19 and travel.

Students may not self-quarantine in residence halls. If you have concerns, please contact housing@usd.edu.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus was first detected in China and has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”)

On January 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. On Jan. 31, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19. On March 11, WHO publicly characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.

The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16 percent of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have experienced mild to severe respiratory illness.Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. Severe complications may include pneumonia in both lungs.

If you have been in China or in close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 in the past two weeks and develop symptoms, call your doctor.

How to Prevent the Spread COVID-19

Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a lined trashcan.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. Call your health care provider ahead of time.

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Is there a vaccine?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Is there a treatment?

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.

What should I do if I’m sick with COVID-19?

Stay home except to get medical care. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis.

Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.

People: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.

Animals: Do not handle pets or other animals while sick. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.

Call ahead before visiting your doctor.

If you have a medical appointment, call the health care provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the health care provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Wear a facemask. You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with you should not stay in the same room with you, or they should wear a facemask if they enter your room.

Cover your coughs and sneezes.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can; immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.

Avoid sharing personal household items.

You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

Clean your hands often.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day.

High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.

Monitor your symptoms

Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, call your health care provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. Put on a facemask before you enter the facility.

Ask your health care provider to call the local or state health department. Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.

If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.

Discontinuing home isolation

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with health care providers and state and local health departments.


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