City of Brookings image: The Brookings City Council discussed the new Reopening Road Map at Tuesday’s meeting. Brookings is in Phase 3, which is covered by Ordinance 20-010. The road map is available for public viewing on the city’s website.

Phases determined by number of cases

The Brookings City Council detailed a Reopening Road Map for handling the COVID-19 pandemic during its meeting Tuesday.

The six-page document has four phases: Red Phase 1/Severe; Orange Phase 2/High; Yellow Phase 3/Moderate; and Green Phase 4/New Normal. 

Phase 1 is Stay-At-Home and covered by Ordinance 20-006, which had a first reading and was tabled on April 14. It can be brought back as a second reading if the council wants to approve it. 

Phase 2 is Incremental Reopening and is covered by Ordinance 20-005, which was approved March 23 and revised April 8.

Phase 3 is Limited Public Gathering Business and Organizations and is covered by Ordinance 20-010, which was approved July 7. Brookings is in Phase 3, with Ordinance 20-010 in place until Sept. 8. A first reading for a new ordinance will be set Aug. 25.

Phase 4 is Less Restrictive/Return to New Normal and has no ordinance yet. 

The road map is available for public viewing online at http://cityofbrookings.org/699/Reopening-Brookings-COVID-19-Ordinances-.

Background

City Manager Paul Briseno highlighted the current COVID-19 numbers as of Tuesday. He pointed out hospitalizations are low, but Brookings County is still in the “substantial community spread” category. 

“This last week in South Dakota did see a large increase: 129 cases on Sunday. Generally, we see relatively low numbers over the weekends. This type of increase hadn’t occurred since the Smithfield outbreak,” Briseno said. 

He briefed the council on the road map, the different phases, and notes for businesses and individuals. 

“Based on the information available at the time, council can adjust each ordinance to address known factors,” Briseno said.

Guidelines are used to help the council make informed decisions, because the information surrounding COVID is subject to change as the virus evolves, he added.

Briseno explained the metrics, such as taking into consideration the latest statistics from the past 14 days and whether it’s under control.

“So right now, that answer is no; it is not under control,” Briseno said, adding the target is 3% for positive tests versus all tests, and it’s at 11%. 

“Should the trends hold based on next week’s report, staff will bring back the existing ordinance (20-010) for renewal,” Briseno said, with a first reading set Aug. 25, and second reading on Sept. 8. 

Enacted to reduce the spread of COVID-19, current Ordinance 20-010 sets requirements for restaurants, bars, grocery stores, casinos, gyms, salons as well as other similar businesses. The rules center around occupancy, hand washing, disinfecting, wearing masks and social distancing by 6 feet.

Briseno said the council would have to consider the schools and South Dakota State University going back into session.

“The metrics are provided by our community partners. The city of Brookings does not have direct access to the data, but our partners do. The data is not given to the city because of HIPAA rules and regulations, but the committee will meet weekly to give the city high-level understanding of the community metrics by Friday,” Briseno said.

On the committee are three epidemiologists, two virologists, two cell biologists, two immunologists and representatives from Sanford Clinic and Brookings Health System, he said.

“I would publicly like to express my sincere thank you for their help to date,” Briseno said.

Council comments

Mayor Keith Corbett added his appreciation to the community partners, calling them “a fantastic group of people … doing great work.”

Councilor Patty Bacon asked if SDSU has a plan of when, how and who needs to be tested.

Briseno said he was communicating weekly with the university, which has received three new testing machines, and they “do have a plan in the works.” The community partners receive test results from SDSU, the hospital, and Avera and Sanford and passes along the overall summary.

SDSU has the JacksRBack plan, and other information, Corbett added. SDSU has a JacksRBack page online at www.sdstate.edu/jacksrback.

Councilor Leah Brink asked Briseno about the 11% testing ratio and wondered if the results fluctuate so dramatically, how can we understand the numbers and the shifts.

There have been recent large influxes of testing, which presumably came as a result of the Fourth of July events, Briseno said. 

“Now, we’re testing a lot fewer, but those tests we are testing are coming back with more positive responds, so therefore the percentage is higher,” he said.

How are the medical experts deciding who to test? Are they testing only those with symptoms or can anyone who asks for a test get tested, Brink asked. It’s hard to compare one week to the next when the number of tests varies so widely, Brink added.

Briseno said he would check on that.

Councilor Joey Collins asked if other towns in eastern South Dakota use the same criteria Brookings does. 

“Not that I’m aware of,” Briseno said, adding he communicates with other city managers across the state.

“I share this information with them to help them make educated decisions,” Briseno said, adding other cities share their information with him. 

Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne thanked the city staff for outlining the plan.

“I do think this is really helpful, having a road map,” she said.

She said one of the epidemiologists had explained the criteria they look at and how the criteria factors into the decisions and recommendations that are made with COVID-19. Tilton Byrne asked if the city could share the information on the criteria so the community can better understand it all.

“We can definitely share that on social media,” Briseno said, adding the website is up-to-date and the criteria is there. 

Bacon commended everyone involved in putting the road map together.

“I had several community members reach out to me to say thank you for all the work that you have done in putting this together. I think it’s a wonderful document, so thank you,” Bacon said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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