Rapid City Mayor suspends weekly COVID briefings
Cites lack of communication from State
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender on Wednesday suspended his weekly briefings on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing frustration with the South Dakota State Department of Health.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender has briefed local media on the crisis, first daily, then weekly.
He said he reached the decision because of a lack of information.
“If the State cannot or will not communicate with cities so that we can better communicate with you,” said Allender, “then what possible good can come from press conferences like this one?”
The issue came to a head following the recent cluster outbreak at one of Avantara’s skilled nursing facilities in Rapid City.
In the week following the Department of Health’s announcement of the Rapid City cluster, there were 101 new cases reported in Pennington County — 56 of them at one facility.
Allender said he raised his concerns in an email to the State Health Department.
In reply, he said, “They offered me the phone number to the local nursing home so that I could contact them, and also reminded me that there are also twice per week press conferences from the Governor’s Office.”
Trying to find out other cities’ experiences, Allender says he reached out to Sioux Falls, which had the big cluster outbreak earlier this year at the Smithfield meat packing plant.
“I asked, during their many outbreaks if they had ever received direct communications from the Department of Health. They reported that they had only received information from either the media or the grapevine.”
Based on his own experience and what he learned from Sioux Falls, Mayor Allender says he has no expectation that the state plans to improve communications.
“So I believe it necessary to defer communication to the State on matters of COVID-19, and accordingly, I plan to suspend these weekly press conferences.”
Mayor Allender said that he will schedule future news conferences on an as-needed basis when he has new information to share.