City lifts restrictions

Just over three months after they were enacted, the Custer City Council unanimously voted to remove all COVID-19 restrictions regarding public gatherings within the city limits of Custer.
The move was a sharp turnaround from last Monday evening when the council passed the first reading of a new public emergency ordinance that gave the council the power to keep COVID-19-related business and public gathering restrictions in place until Sept. 1.
The new ordinance, which terminates and repeals ordinance and resolutions related to the restrictions, was passed at a special meeting of the council. The council was not to meet again until July 6.
Alderwoman Jeannie Fischer said Custer businesses have worked hard to come up with plans to operate safely during the pandamic, adding that constituents know which businesses are taking proper precautions to keep the public safe.
“We have a lot of months to go, so we are going to have to count on each other to do the right thing,” she said.
Alderwoman Nina Nielsen also congratulated businesses that have gone “above and beyond” to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines related to the virus and said she knows they will continue to go above and beyond.
Part of the rationale for the new resolution is stated as “the number of cases in the Black Hills area does not appear to be on a trajectory to overwhelm the local health care system at this time,” while the council also cautioned just because the restrictions are being lifted does not mean COVID-19 has gone away.
The new ordinance reads it is in the city’s best interest to encourage citizens and businesses to follow both state and CDC guidelines and practice social distancing while removing formal legal requirements that could result in criminal punishment for those who fail to do so.
There was a brief discussion on concern over how people can find out when and how the virus has spread in the county and the importance of contact tracing in preventing the spread.
While some businesses have revealed they have employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, not much else is known about the seven positive cases in Custer County, including ages, gender and areas of the county the person lives in. The state Department of Health does not give that information when it reports new cases, citing privacy laws.
“They don’t reveal very much,” said Mayor Corbin Herman. “Hopefully the contract tracing goes a long ways.”
Because the council already passed the first reading of the ordinance that would have extended the restrictions to Sept. 1 if necessary, a second reading must still be addressed. That will likely take place at the July 6 meeting, at which time the council will likely decline to pass the second reading, rendering it moot.

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