My Pandemic Diary

by Jeff Jacobsen

[you can click on a photo to see a larger version]

5/10/20

It was snowing today when I woke up! And the number of covid-19 patients went up remarkably in South Dakota, mainly because of mass testing from Smithfield-related people in Sioux Falls. South Dakota is I hope going to be a historical research point for this virus, because here in the western half we have very few cases (7 active in Pennington County right now) while in the east there are hundreds of active cases. Most of those center around the Smithfield meat processsing plant in Sioux Falls. This is an old plant where people are kind of smashed in there to do their work, eat lunch, and just go in and out through narrow halls. Also, the people working there are mainly immigrants from several countries who live together and some don't even speak English. So it was almost inevitable that the virus would spread there.

I am a city bus driver in Rapid City so I'm driving around town Monday through Friday as an “essential worker” since I take people to get groceries, to the doctor, and to work. This gives me an interesting perspective on what's going on in town, since I continually drive through neighborhoods and by businesses. So I want to record a bit of this perspective for posterity. Of course, I should have started this about a month ago, so I'll have to fill in a bit here. I'm 64 and almost ready to retire. I moved back to Rapid City in about 2010 after having grown up here.

People started slowly adjusting to the idea that a pandemic was starting. At work the first thing was that the bus seating was reduced from a maximum 28 seats to just 6, plus room left for one wheelchair. 7 total, although small children could ride on laps. This was so passengers would be 6 feet apart. Once the shutdown began here in Rapid City, ridership went from an average of perhaps 200 rides per day per bus to 60. So usually the lack of seating has not been a problem, though a few times I've had to tell people wanting to ride that I was already full. We are supposed to disinfect our buses by wiping surfaces that people touch once a day on our shift. I wear a cloth mask, though it is not required of drivers. And we are told to follow the usual CDC guidelines of 6 feet distance, wash hands frequently, etc.

Along with the lowering of ridership, I also noticed less vehicle traffic, though that varies. And of course so many stores and shops being closed, as well as the schools, makes for a quieter city. People here have in general been good about the quarantine as far as I can tell. Most riders and drivers, though, don't wear masks. The wife of one of the drivers makes masks, so he gave me one. I found an N95 mask at our cabin, but I'm saving that in case the outbreak gets worse here.

Construction doesn't seem to have slowed one bit. The Civic Center and hospital construction are still going as normal, and road repairs seem to be just as busy.

One big thing I've noticed began after people started getting their $1200 stimulus money. Fast food drive-thrus have been much busier ever since. Last night, for instance, I went to Popeye's chicken. I was in line for over 20 minutes before I got to the window. This has been a consistent thing for the last few weeks.

More stores and restaurants re-opened last week, so long as they conform to the CDC guidelines of distancing and such. A shout-out to On The Border restaurant, which began social distancing in their restaurant even before the quarantine shut them down. They're back open again as are others. I plan to walk to Marco's Pizza today to eat inside for the first time. The drive-thru places take this more or less seriously. Burger King has you put your money in a basket, then gives you change and your food in a basket as well. Some employees wear masks and gloves, while others like Arby's don't seem to be doing anything in particular.

Scheel's was the first place where I saw lines outside of people waiting to go in, since the total number of shoppers is now restricted inside. This seems to be fine so long as the weather is ok.

Personally, I wear a mask when I go where people are, such as the Safeway or in the bus. I wash my hands thoroughly a few times per day. I don't go out much except for walks or to get food/necessities or work. I take my temperature in the morning and evening (usually 96.2F). And I try to keep up with the news. I made a web page of links regarding Covid-19 mostly for myself so I can look up things more easily – www.jeffjacobsen.org/covid.htm

I walk around the neighborhood for exercise. I've noticed that when I start walking toward kids playing in their yard, they go behind their house, or even go inside. I think parents have told them they can be outside if they avoid unknown people. One encounter was different though. A girl was riding her tiny bike in her driveway as I walked by. Just after I walked by I heard “what do you like most about quarantine?” I stopped and said “I don't mind it really because I like being alone anyway. What about you?” She said “watching TV and sleeping.” “Do you have nice dreams?” I asked. She said yeah, and with that we both said goodbye.

I got a free virus anti-body test since I'm a city employee. The results came back negative the next day.

So with that, I'll claim myself caught up, and will write something hopefully on a daily basis from here on out.

Today I went to my first sit-down restaurant meal since quarantine. Marco's Pizza has spread their tables apart so there is 6 feet between people sitting at the chairs. There are now only 5 stools at the bar, and they were all more than 6 feet apart. The waiter had a mask on but it was drooping off his face rather than being usefully tight. There was a plexiglass sheet hung between the cashier and any customer. There was only me and a dude at the bar. The food was good as always, and watching the geese on the golf course is always fun while eating.

countries graph 6-12-20
I started making these graphs daily to see how the virus was moving

states graph 6-12-21
I used the US and South Dakota each time

 

5/11/20

Virus in the White House. They are the “do as I say, not as I do” type of executives.

I went to Pancheros tonight and ate inside. When the inside was closed they had 2 little tables in their tiny foyer. One was labeled “call-in” and the other was “door dash.” So you would come at the time you picked when you ordered your food online, then the workers would put your order with your name on it on the appropriate table. While I was waiting one time, a door dash guy was talking to a worker, and they concluded that somebody must have stolen his order. So they remade it quickly. Other people were out waiting in their cars, even though there were some orders on the table. Anyway, it seemed like a messy way to do it.

Tonight inside every other table was marked with pink tape to show they were not supposed to be used. While I was there I was the only person eating in. A few customers came, ordered, and left while I ate. I'm thinking that it's going to take a while for people to dine in on a regular basis.

I plan to eat at On the Border tomorrow night, and that will probably be the end of my dining in, except for when I go to Deadwood next.

5/12/20

Today the paper says there are 32 active cases in Pennington County. 16 are at Sioux San. We drive people there on the Borglum route, which I'll be doing Wednesday. So we really are on the front lines now. Our island of solitude has been upset.

Tonight I ate at On the Border for Taco Tuesday. Every other table is blocked off, as it was even before the shutdown. They were ahead of everybody else. The waiters all wore masks. Other than that I didn't see any changes. It wasn't very busy. And in fact, driving by sit-in places, none seemed very busy except maybe the west side Millstone. Something that surprises me is that Denney's is closed. They tried the delivery and pickup route, but apparently it didn't work out. Also, I'm seeing Help Wanted signs in several businesses, especially fast food places. Not sure what that's about. The lines in the drive-thrus are a bit shorter now.

One of the drivers told me his friend got the virus and was really sick for 3 weeks straight.

My next dine-in adventure will be in Deadwood, which just re-opened a while ago.

5/14/20

I drove to Galena today to hike. Then I went to the Deadwood Grand Casino for lunch. They take the virus very seriously. When you go in they check your temperature. There are hand cleaning stations everywhere. The staff all have masks and gloves. The waitress brought silverware wrapped in plastic. You pay in the glass your tab comes in. I like it.

On the way home I went to the Burger King drive-thru in Sturgis. They used the pan method like in Rapid, where you drop your payment into a pan, and your order and change come back in the pan.

Not much other virus news except Trump said the craziest things so far today.

5/15/20

This movement to fight the quarantine is so strange to me. It means we are not all in this together. My health ends where your cough starts. So like it or not we DO need to work together to fight this virus.

Another thing I see starting is some people saying that the death rate is so small that we are just over-reacting to the virus, so quarantine and such is not warranted. I'm working on comparing the stats from 1918 to today. I think the death rate is indeed lower, but perhaps that's because of what we've already done to fight it, and our better health care today. At any rate, conspiracy is winning out over science with many people.

I was at the Safeway just a bit ago and one thing I've noticed is when a store puts one-way arrows down for their aisles, a lot of people just don't seem to understand that and just go whichever way. Maybe ½ the shoppers there were wearing masks (including me) while all the employees were. And that reminds me, at the mall the outside doors are marked “enter” for the right side doors, and “exit” for the left hand doors, as you come into the mall. People basically ignore those signs too.

5/16/20

I got a call at 10:45am from my boss that one of the drivers tested positive for Covid-19. I think she said that was Monday, but that doesn't seem right. At any rate, it's a fill-in driver that I don't have much contact with and both he and I usually wear our masks (albeit, in the bus only). My boss said she'd call back later when she gets health care information about what we should do. If I have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks, I can use my sick days for that so I will still get paid. The bus system may need to shut down though.

At any rate, here's where I had been the last few days based on emails and receipts and my memory;

Friday; shopped at Safeway 2pm to 2:21pm (receipt time). Didn't interact with anyone but noticed people were ignoring the one-way aisle signs. Had my mask on. Walked to Circle S and bought lottery tickets (had my mask on inside) at 5:07pm. A new guy named Solomon served me. Another guy helped explain to him how to do lotto tickets. Went through the Taco Bell on Fairmont drive-thru, maybe 7pm.

Thursday; Drove to Galena. Ate at Deadwood Grand 6-String in Deadwood. Maybe 3pm? A waitress served me. Black hair. I had my mask on except when eating. Paid cash. Didn't gamble. Then I walked down and up Main Street, but didn't interact with anyone nor go in any stores. Just talked to my sister on the phone as I was doing that. On the way home I went through the Sturgis Burger King drive-thru and got a shake. I think I had my mask on there.

Wednesday: Drove over from the garage with James at work. I took my daily morning walk to the south but didn't interact with anybody. Got a pizza from Pauly's. Just in and out.

Tuesday; walked toward Safeway but didnt' interact with anyone or go in anywhere. I ate supper at On the Border. I wore a mask when not eating I think. A guy served me. About 7pm I suppose, after work. Everybody was quite a distance from me. I sat on a 2-person table near the kitchen door. My Lucky for Life lotto ticket says I purchased it at retail store 21081200, but I don't recall where that would have been. 19:11, 2 tickets.

Monday: ate at Pancheros inside after work (6:45pm ish). I was the only one eating inside. No one interacted with me after I got my meal.

5/18/20, Monday

Management has done away with transfer tickets while I was away on vacation, and nobody told me. Instead of giving a passenger a transfer ticket at the station so they can continue their trip on another bus, we are supposed to call in transfers so the next bus knows someone is coming from our bus that has already paid. I picked up a guy at the hospital toward the end of the day, and asked if he was transferring. He said “I'm deaf,” which I didn't know. So I took off my mask to ask if he was transferring. I think we have kinks in this new system to work out.

At least 3 drivers were out, including the one who got the virus. I assume that the other 2 are self-quarantining as they must have hung out with the infected guy. I really don't even remember even saying hi to him last Monday when I would have been infected by him (he took off work after that).

The huge lines at most drive-thru food places are down to just long now. It has definitely gone down.

There are more and more people gradually going to the mall now, and they seem to have figured out using the Enter doors to enter and Exit doors to exit now. Penney's never re-opened and will probably shutter, meaning the mall will have no anchor stores.

Denney's tried take-out when all this started, but I can't imagine Denney's food as take-out food. It's all designed for dine-in. Surprisingly, they have not re-opened yet.

A worker at a Walgreen's, a rehab facility, the Super 8 motel, Rapid Ride, Walmart (2 people), Sioux San, and probably other places have now tested positive. The guy who got shot in a police traffic stop tested positive. So it's definitely spreading here now. I felt like we were in a little island of safety for a long time until about 2 weeks ago. So we're probably just in the early stages of an outbreak here, coincidentally timed to the same time the lock-down was eased some.

I have 4 masks now. The original gray one is from a co-worker's wife, which is ok, but doesn't fit quite the way I would like. I have an N95 mask that I'm saving for a bad outbreak. I found a packet of cheap painter's masks. And I bought a cloth mask online that I wore for the first time yesterday all day. It's easier to breathe in and is probably the most comfortable (and stylish, with buffalo on it), but it's also the hardest to take off and put on. So I plan right now to just switch off between them. Co-workers were definitely wearing masks more, but I don't know if that was a requirement from management or not. There's a slight up-tick in how many passengers are wearing masks.

I'm planning to buy a used car in September. A car I've been keeping an eye on was for $11,000 before the virus. A few weeks ago it was down to $10,000, and not it's at $9500. By September I might get a nice car pretty cheap!

5/19/20

The big thing now is all the new positive cases all over. A policeman, a woman in the women's shelter, a Walgreen's employee, 2 Walmart employees, a shooter, and 18 cases at Sioux San! Plus, of course, a fellow bus driver. So it's kind of exploding in the county now. I don't think this is because of the lessening of quarantine. I think it's just finally come here.

The city bought us all masks to wear. I now have 6 masks and I don't really have a favorite yet. They are a bummer to wear no matter what. I shaved off my beard last night because the masks made me itchy. Much better without a beard.

Drive-thru fast food places are still doing gangbuster business, but it's down from the peak. I still don't quite get that, except maybe it's still people spending their $1200 bonuses.

5/20/20

On my route today I drove by both Pizza Ranch buffets. They only recently re-opened inside dining, with the change that staff now puts food on your plate rather than the herd going to the trough at the same time. There were very few cars in either lot, which indicates to me that people are still skittish about being that close together with strangers and food. I would think that the buffet might be the last place to recover from the virus.

Meanwhile, I went through the KFC driv-thru, which had about 14 cars ahead of me. This is the 2nd time I've gone through the line, and they are much more efficient now. I would guess it took ½ as long to get my food.

One of our drivers had been out with symptoms similar to the virus. But he apparently tested negative and might be back tomorrow.

Who's Hobby Shop sign, 5-20-20
Who's Hobby Shop at Main Street Square, sign on door 5-20-20

5/21/20

Today a driver came back after being gone for 3 days. He tested negative for the virus and came back. He said the test is painful and they make you sit on your hands while they jab a swab deep into your nose.

The driver with the virus has not had to go to the hospital but had a high fever and was pretty sick. His fever is coming down now and he might be back in about a week.

Main Street Square bathroom sign, 5-20-20
where can you go to the bathroom?  Almost nowhere!

5/22/20

I'm seeing a lot of help wanted signs, especially at fast food places.

Seeing lots of out of state license plates downtown now. The tourists are arriving. Mt. Rushmore is opening today. The state parks are open (though this might be a good place to social distance). Meanwhile, the virus is spreading randomly through town. This setup is not looking good.

I don't worry about catching the virus too much. I'm a natural shut-in anyway. But I still go to work, get food at drive-thru places, and of course get groceries once a week. It's looking more like people who catch it are pretty sick for a week or 2, then recover. Still I'm doing my duty social distancing, wearing a mask (required at work now), washing my hands thoroughly, etc. So if I get it, it wasn't for lack of trying to avoid.

Que Pasa restaurant outdoor seating was probably as full as it could be with social distancing. A lot of people had lawn chairs and were sitting along Mt Rushmore road tonight for the classic car cruising. I'd guess there was less social distancing there than there should have been, and come to think of it hardly anybody was wearing a mask.

5/23/20

I drove on a Saturday for the first time in a long time. 2 drivers are out, one with Covid19, and the other still being tested, apparently, with some symptoms. 2 other drivers have never come back after the virus hit and I assume they have quit or will be quitting once their sick leave runs out. But since dial a ride has gone down in ridership, that leaves up some of their drivers to fill in. So I don't think the city is seeking new drivers yet.

Today I saw cars from 9 different states downtown so tourists are definitely arriving. This kind of surprises me, but we'll have to see how active the tourist season is.

Storybook Island has opened and the parking lot seemed full. Driving around, I saw people biking, playing baseball, soccer etc., and pretty much nobody wearing a mask. Near the bus depot is a flower shop, and across the road were maybe a dozen people of all ages. Coming out of the flower shop were about a dozen more people, apparently from a wedding by the clothing they were wearing. None of those 2 dozen people was wearing a mask. So on the first day of tourist season, at the same time virus cases here are spiking upward, people are slacking off. This does not bode well.

5/24/20

My boss called me today, a Sunday, to let me know a 2nd driver has tested positive for Covid-19. This was a driver who's been out as long as the guy who we already knew had it. For some reason they seemed to be having trouble testing this 2nd guy, but now it's come back positive. Today marks 2 weeks since I've been in contact with either of these drivers so I should be in the clear.

I walked downtown today, and while I was at the Main Street Square there was a guy with a “Covid-19 is a Trojan Horse” t-shirt. I didn't talk to him, but I'm wondering how that works? The virus is a Trojan Horse to get you to take a vaccine that still doesn't exist? Not sure. Not many face masks downtown. The guy running the malt shop had one on, and you had to order through an outside window.

Everything is pointing to us having a big jump in cases now. The Memorial Day weekend is officially the start of tourist season, and they are here. People seem to be slacking off with the masks, staying home, and social distancing. And more and more places are opening, like haircut places, Storybook Island, etc. There is a rise right now but I'm suspecting it will jump quite a bit this coming week.

Here's today's Rapid City Journal article about the 2nd driver;

A second driver with the City's Rapid Transit System (RTS) has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The driver's last RTS shift was Saturday, May 16. The driver did not work last week after developing a gastro-intestinal condition. He sought medical attention and was tested for the COVID-19 virus last Wednesday (May 20). The employee was notified of the positive test and alerted his RTS supervisor Saturday evening (May 23).

Earlier today, RTS officials alerted the South Dakota Department of Health of the positive test and have contacted other RTS employees who may have had contact with the driver. The employees are being asked to monitor for COVID symptoms and to follow protocols for staying home from work and seeking medical advice if they develop COVID-like symptoms or any other health condition.

"Transit officials indicate the driver used a face mask while working and driving on the routes," said Mayor Steve Allender. "We want to assure the public that the driver practiced and followed social distancing, hand washing and disinfecting guidelines and protocols.

"We reached out to the Department of Health with the information. We are also sharing with the public the driver's time line and routes in the week prior to his leaving work so anyone who may have been on the driver's routes during the specific days and times can monitor for symptoms."

City officials indicate the employee drove RapidRide routes the week of May 11-16, prior to his absence. He did not drive in the Dial-a-Ride system and as indicated earlier, did not work after his May 16 shift.

Officials are providing the following time line of the driver's RapidRide shifts and routes for the period May 11-16:

DATE: TIME: ROUTE:

Monday, May 11 - 2:30-5:50 p.m. - Coolidge Route

Tuesday, May 12 - 2:30-5:30 p.m. - Jefferson Route

Wednesday, May 13 - 2:30-5:50 p.m. - Lincoln Route

Thursday, May 14 - 2:30-5:50 p.m. - Roosevelt Route

Friday, May 15 - 2:30-5:30 p.m. - Washington Route

Saturday, May 16 - 9:30 a.m.-5:10 p.m. - Jefferson Route

City officials do not plan to reduce or suspend RapidRide or Dial-a-Ride operations at the present time. Drivers will continue to follow social distancing and hygiene protocols, including the mandatory wearing of face masks.

On May 16, an RTS driver tested positive, remains self-quarantined and is not expected to return to service until early June.”

So I didn't recall correctly the last time I might have been in contact with him, which was actually the 13th since I took the 14th and 15th off. My 2 weeks from him will be June 27. But we never talked much and he comes in about 1/2 way through our shift so hopefully nobody else got it.

5/25/20

I ate inside at Subway and was the only one who did that. You can go inside to order now, and there are a few tables open for sitting. The server wore a mask. There's hand sanitizer next to the checkout. You have to ask for a clean cup if you want to refill. There are 6 foot markers on the floor. And for some unknown reason both doors were propped open.

I didn't go anywhere else. I was thinking about going to eat inside at On the Border tomorrow, but there were articles in all the local media about “Second Rapid Transit Driver gets the Virus!!!” So if I come into a restaurant now with my uniform on, will I be considered like a Typhoid Mary? I think I won't eat out in my uniform anymore.

I finished the last of Starcraft, took a walk, cleaned house a bit, worked on the garden.

5/26/20

Here's my letter printed in the Rapid City Journal June 23;

Governor Noem took medical advice from President Trump, who's medical background is zero, to set up testing hydroxycholorquine as a treatment for Covid19. South Dakota got a huge shipment of the drug to do this testing. All along the dangers of this drug have been expressed in previous trials. Just today the Washington Post reported that "An analysis of 96,000 patients shows those treated with hydroxychloroquine were also more likely to suffer irregular heart rhythms." Meanwhile, a woman with lupus (the malady that hydroxycholorquine was developed for), stated in an NPR interview that she and others with lupus cannot get the drug they need because it was hijacked for Covid19 patients. I urge Governor Noem to immediately release South Dakota's trove of this drug so people who can really benefit from it will once again have access to it. I also urge her not to take medical advice from an unqualified TV personality.

Jeff Jacobson, Rapid City

Today's route is the one that goes by both Pizza Ranches, which are supposed to be offering dine-in again. But there were so few cars at both places I couldn't tell if they were still offering dine in or not. Millstone Restaurant's 2 locations seem to be doing brisk inside business though. I might try them Thursday night. I didn't go to On the Border tonight because I might be looked at with my Rapid Ride uniform on. The bus drivers who got the virus have been in the local media for the past few days, including today.

A guy on the bus today said “I have a strong immune system so I can't get a virus.” He wasn't wearing a mask but his partner was. I'd guess maybe ½ the riders wear masks.

My boss mentioned today that I'll probably have to work some mornings too since more and more drivers are going out for different reasons. I saw on the schedule tomorrow 3 drivers pulling double shifts. So it's probably going to be a lot of overtime for the next few weeks.

5/27/20

Rapid Transit is a hot spot for Covid-19! 3 drivers got it now. I haven't heard of any passengers having it though so it's very strange. I hope they are contact tracing but haven't heard. Meanwhile, starting Saturday, we've got 14 days off (paid) to make sure none of us is spreading it around, or some strange source is doing this. The city will deep clean the buses, station, and barn.

The last time I was in contact with the last driver to come down with the virus was May 20, so I should be good after June 3, unless somebody ELSE gets it too.

From the city today:

 

CITY SUSPENDING RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM

AFTER THIRD DRIVER TESTS COVID-POSITIVE

Two-week suspension begins Saturday;

Will allow for thorough cleaning

of RTS buses, facilities

RAPID CITY, SD--The City's Rapid Transit System will suspend operations for two weeks effective this Saturday (May 30) due to a third positive test among the System's drivers. The announcement was made by Mayor Steve Allender at this afternoon's weekly press conference.

The suspension affects RapidRide, which operates buses on six fixed-route systems in the city, and Dial-a-Ride, which provides transportation services to local residents with disabilities. City officials indicate the suspension in services will allow for a detailed cleaning of RTS buses and facilities, including the Milo Barber Transportation Center and the RTS bus barn, located on Centre Street.

"We are obviously concerned with the string of positive tests affecting our RTS drivers," said Mayor Steve Allender. "All of the drivers who have tested positive have been wearing masks, social distancing and following hygiene protocols. There is minimal or no interaction between RTS drivers and passengers.

"The suspension will allow the buses and facilities to get a thorough cleaning. As with the previous two positive tests, we are sharing the dates, times and routes the driver took, which will allow riders to self-monitor for symptoms and seek medical advice or attention if they experience any issues."

RTS officials indicate the driver wore face masks during his shifts and his last shift was Thursday, May 21. He began experiencing symptoms last Friday and did not work after Thursday's shift. He was tested for the COVID-19 virus this weekend and was notified of a positive test result last evening (Tuesday). RTS officials were notified by the driver of the positive test this morning (Wednesday).

The employee drove RapidRide on the following dates, times and routes:

DATE: TIME: ROUTE:

Monday, May 18 6:20 a.m.-Noon Coolidge Route

Tuesday, May 19 6:20 a.m.-2:20 p.m. Jefferson Route

Wednesday, May 20 6:20 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Lincoln Route

Thursday, May 21 6:20 a.m.-Noon Washington Route

Anyone riding the RTS system between today and Saturday will be notified of the two-week suspension in services. The City will also be communicating the suspension action through local media and online social media sources.

"While public transit services will be unavailable during this time, there will be a need for transportation in the community," said Megan Gould, Rapid Transit System manager. "If you know a family member, friend or neighbor who might benefit from a ride to the doctor or the grocery store, provide that assistance, or offer to run an errand for a disabled neighbor."

Today's decision comes three days after the City notified the public of a second driver testing positive for COVID-19. On May 16, South Dakota Department of Health officials announced the first positive test result among a Rapid Transit System driver.

City officials anticipate public transit services will resume Monday, June 15.

Thank you,

Darrell W. Shoemaker | Communications Coordinator

* * * * * *

Tandy Leather sign, 5-27-20
Tandy Leather sign on their door, 5-27-20

5/28/20

Today I picked up a woman with a full hand cart from Walmart. She had a nurse's mask on, fortunately. She would occasionally cough and hack, like a “I'm gonna see how far I can shoot my saliva” kinda cough. It was the worst cough I've heard on the bus since the virus thing started. She got on in the 12:10 run of Coolidge, then transferred to the Roosevelt bus. She was short and had a black jacket with I think green triangles at the shoulders. So if I get sick, that's the first person to track down. An older guy who gets off on 44th Street on the Borglum run was on the bus at the same time.

Not much else happened at work. I heard the first driver who got sick was planning to come back to work, but now we'll be off for 2 weeks so that won't happen. I asked if any contact tracing was happening but the other worker I asked was skeptical. She said someone from the state health department came and asked a few questions from the management, like who the sick drivers had been in contact with at work, but she didn't think the questioning was very deep and didn't know what the health worker was investigating outside work.

Tomorrow will be the last day before our 2 weeks off. There are so many drivers out right now for varying reasons that 3 drivers are doing double shifts tomorrow, and I go in early to relieve a driver for lunch. So this time off will probably be good to reorganize things and see if there are even enough drivers left to keep going.

I'll mention something that bothers me a lot. On Facebook and twitter there are many conspiracy theories about the virus that drive me nuts. For instance, wearing a mask is considered dangerous by some. So, what happens is that experts in a field give some advice, like that wearing a mask is good to help slow the spread of the virus. Then some goon somewhere says No! Wearing a mask cuts your oxygen supply and congeals your own germs! Wearing a mask is dangerous! So this gets spread around online somehow, and people think Hm, that makes sense. The Expert must have an ulterior motive to recommend something that could hurt me! I can't believe the Expert! Don't wear masks! FREEDOM!!!! And thus some people refuse to wear masks. I'm amazed that sometimes friends of mine fall for this crap. And there's no arguing with them.

Wilson School sign 5-27-20
Wilson Elementary School sign

5/29/20

I had diarrhea this morning but then remembered I ate 3 donuts yesterday at work. Seem ok now. I was also up to 97.4 for a while this morning, while my normal is 96.2 I was down to 96.9 before going to work and figured I was probably ok. Didn't have any problem at work.

This will be the third day in a row I had to go in early to cover another driver's lunch.

Back home now and I'm 96.6 and feel ok. No more diarrhea except just when I woke up.

I heard there is a 4th driver who's tested positive now. He is the one I hang out with the most. One is in the hospital though I don't know which one.

So our mandatory 2 week paid vacation begins now. I plan to lay pretty low this weekend and see how I do. If no problems I'll start venturing out more on Tuesday since that will be 14 days since I had contact with the 4 positive drivers.

Discussion at work was about how to make the buses safer for us. The general idea is to put lexan or something between us and the passengers. One driver thought a plastic clear curtain would be best. I thought we should emphasize that passengers should wear masks, but my boss says we can't force them to do that.

I was just watching the Deadwood webcam for about 10 minutes and only saw one couple wearing masks. I assume these are mostly tourists, and they all seem to be content pretending the virus is over.

5/30/20

Today I pretty much stayed home, even not going to the protest downtown. At the protest many people still wore masks which was great. It was peaceful, but I also saw a bunch of demonstrators getting mad at the police for arresting a guy. The video starts after the guy is already in custody, so I have no clue what was going on, but it looked like the demonstrators were severely overreacting.

My temperature sometimes is up to 97.4 which is high for me. I don't get why this is. But I think I'll call my doctor Monday and see about getting tested. I suppose I'll have to pay for it though.

5/31/20

I went for a walk to Boyd's for some supplies, then went to the post office, bank ATM, KFC drive-thru, and that's about it. I watched about 15 minutes of Deadwood webcam and saw no one with a mask. Just browsed the news, Facebook, Twitter etc. besides that. Cleaned house a bit. My temperature showed 98.1 just a minute ago which is the hottest I've ever seen I think for me, but then I did it a bit later and it was 96.9, so not sure what's going on there.

My battery was dying in my thermometer. So I went to about 4 places looking for this LR41 battery and never found one. I have a regular thermometer but I haven't been using it so don't know if it will show the same thing. Right now it showed 98.3.

6/2/20

Yesterday I had a slight headache and my temperature was up to 97.7. I got my thermometer batteries at Batteries Plus. So I started a log of my temperature and symptoms. This morning I'm at 96.3 and feeling pretty much normal. There's another protest tonight I'd like to go to so I'll have to decide about that. Plus I was thinking of going to eat inside at on the Border.

Trump's trip to his local church to hold up a Bible is maybe the dumbest thing he's done yet. It was obviously just a photo-op and the cops had to shoo away the protesters first.

I'm very proud of Rapid City right now. All the protests (about George Floyd's murder) have been peaceful and the cops have been great as far as I've seen. A lot of the protesters wore masks which was great. Usually when there's a protest I'm there but since I wasn't feeling perfect yesterday I stayed away.

I thought to get tested yesterday so called my doctor's office. They gave me a “nurse triage” phone number to call. There is an automated questionnaire when you call. First they ask if you've been in contact with anybody with the virus. Yes. Next, do you have any symptoms? Not really, only slightly, so I said no. So they said you don't need a test. Bummer. Probably if I paid for it myself I could get one, but I'll keep that as an option if needed later.

I'm hoping to go to Galena for a hike tomorrow, and eat at Deadwood Grand. Will see how I feel in the morning.

6/3/20

Went to Deadwood Grand again. Very quiet. There might have been 5 or so people playing the slot machines. No tables open. Walking around downtown Deadwood I'd guess 5% of the people were wearing masks.

I was 96.8 at 8:30pm.

6/4/20

My temperature was 96.3 at 7:30am.

Tonight I went to the Black Lives Matter rally with my mask on. There were about 50 people there, and most wore a mask. We even tried somewhat to social distance but that's hard to do while walking in a group chanting (they really like chanting). The group was mostly young people. Two guys were dressed up in black like the Black Bloc does but I don't think they would describe themselves as that. When we got to the courthouse, it started to pour. I noticed that it's hard to breath through a wet mask (sorta like waterboarding?) but I kept mine on. Walking back to the park, I was toward the back with some homeless guys with us. They were discussing which type of bomb they thought the pro-Trumpers would throw at us. After the storm we walked back to the memorial park and called it a night since another storm cell was on the way. I'd guess there were 8 cops assigned to us, on bikes or in cars. I saw a pro-Trump truck driving around as I was driving to the park, but never saw them while we were marching. No media that I saw.

Temperature at 8pm is 96.9

6/5/20

Not much to report. Mowed the yard. Did laundry. Nothing exciting.

6/6/20

Chance of heavy rain might knock out the protest this afternoon scheduled for 5pm. I plan to head down that way to either make a time-lapse of the storm coming in or protest, whichever seems better.

Popeye's closed, unknown why
sign at Popeye's drive-through.  Covid problem?  Don't know.

6/13/20

Not much going on. We go back to work Monday, but with shorter hours.

I walked around Deadwood 2 days ago and saw exactly 2 people wearing a mask besides all the employees who are required to. I think tourists think they are taking a vacation from the virus too, but they're not.

Tourism is definitely down but there are still some here.

When I went to Galena my cousin introduced me to somebody and he came over and shook my hand. I think that's only the 2nd handshake I've had in 3 months. I think bowing is probably the way to replace handshaking.

My temperature has been normal and no symptoms of anything. I go on long hikes. No problem.

Trump is coming here for fireworks at Mt. Rushmore. Once again our governor kowtows to Trump and will allow no social distancing requirement nor masks for the event. Sends a bad message.

6/15/20

First day back at work. There's now a clear shower curtain between the driver and passengers. This seems fine except sometimes it's hard to see what the passenger shows getting on the bus. They have to show a pass or their money or a punch card they will put in the coin box. When I have all the windows open the curtain opens itself, but that's probably fine since fresh air is safer than confined air anyway.

bus curtain
Curtain installed between driver and riders

Also we have to wear N95 masks that we are issued now. They're ok I guess. They clean them in the morning, and we are issued 2 each so while one is being cleaned we wear the other. They last 5 days.

It was very quiet today with few riders. I think it will be a while before people start coming back. We may never be back to our peak when we had a lot of passengers plus students.

All of the drivers who got the virus are back. One said he just thought he had the stomach flu, but his wife had him get tested and sure enough he had Covid-19. I haven't talked to the other 2 yet. A 4th driver who was out was sick with pneumonia. I don't think any drivers have quit over the virus except 2 very early on.

6/16/20

The Rapid City council yesterday voted to lift all covid-19 restrictions on businesses. That seems bad because the rates here are climbing and tourists are swarming in. Alas, no top of the curve here for a while.

Silly me finally figured out why fast food drive-thrus are so popular. They're safe! Plus many of the inside dining areas have been closed, of course. So it's not that more people are choosing fast food, it's that they're choosing to get their fast food via drive-thru.

6/17/20

So our ridership since we've been back is now about 20% of normal before the virus. I think during those 2 weeks some riders must have found alternative ways to get around.

A driver who had the virus said he mostly had stomach flu like symptoms. His temperature went up to 102.6, while the other driver said he never had a fever. This driver was in the hospital for 5 days.

Since we've been back the first 2 runs and last 2 runs of the day have been eliminated for the time being. And no Saturday runs. I suspect they will come back in a week or 2.

The clear shower curtain now between the driver and passengers I think is a good thing. It's a little hard to look through to see a passenger paying or showing their pass, but that's not so bad. One passenger so far has asked for a mask, but she said the masks we're handing out are too small. She did manage to stretch it and wear it though.

6/18/20

A Cool Clave Plus is used to sanitize our masks at work a the end of the day. You stick the masks in for an hour and the ultraviolet light kills the virus. The masks can be worn up to 5 times. Ours have valves, which I think defeat the purpose of protecting passengers.

6/20/20

I went to Deadwood today and ate at Deadwood Grand Casino. I asked the waitress how many tourists wear masks and she went on a rant about how they just don't seem to care about spreading the virus. Going through the casino, and walking around town, I was happy to see the use of masks went from 0% on average to maybe 2% today.

In Rapid City I'd say 0% of tourists use a mask, 10% of bus passengers do, and maybe 80% of workers in town wear one.

Pizza Ranch seems to have picked up inside dining quite a bit. Also the Fish n Fry and Wild Bill's were really busy today. LOTS of ATV's and jeeps around Galena.

6/22/20

I  went to Hobby Lobby tonight to get a few things. A few customers were wearing masks, but surprisingly not all the workers were wearing masks. I got some stretch cord for my web-bought mask, which had almost rope-width string on it. The stretch makes it fit better.

Pretty much everybody at work is faithfully wearing a mask now except the people in the office, but when they leave the office they generally wear masks too.

On Facebook there are several people who are railing against masks, that they are dangerous for your health and not useful for safety. I truly don't understand how people get such ideas in their heads.

The number of Covid-19 cases is going up in many places, though it's sort of plateauing in Pennington County. I assume we will stay like this for a while before ever going down.

One of the drivers got tested over the weekend for free and should know his results tomorrow. He doesn't have any symptoms.

6/27/20

A couple of days ago I went to Target. I wore my mask. Maybe ½ the people had masks. A few of the employees weren't wearing masks either.

I went to Deadwood today and drove the whole length of Main St. Of all the people I saw, I saw 7 masks. I ate at Sled Haus where no one, including me, had a mask. Most everyone was eating outdoors and social distancing, however. The owner said they were closed for 2 weeks then tried just takeout, but it was not making enough so they tried reopening just this week.

The Fish 'n Fry and Wild Bill's were pretty busy again, and lots of ATVs and jeeps were running around Galena.

mask use scary

6/28/20

I ate inside at Wendy's today. No one in there, including the staff, had a mask. This is different from last time I was in there maybe a week ago.

I was involved with a police situation today. 2 people were arguing and I called the police for the guy who got hurt. Those 2 involved, me, and the police were not wearing masks. I hope none of us had that virus.

6/30/20

Yesterday at work a board announcement said we'd need to use our cloth masks from now on, though an N95 mask will be on the bus in case we have a wheelchair where we have to be close to a passenger. I actually think this is because they are having trouble finding N95 masks, though that's just a guess on my part.

I put stretch cord in my new buffalo mask so will try that at work today.

Yep, worked great.

I ate at On the Border tonight, outside. All the employees were wearing masks (no customers though). We were social distancing. Not bad.

The number of riders on the bus seems to be picking up a bit now. The curtain is a bit of a pain but tolerable.

7/2/20

I  asked 2 of the drivers who had the virus if anyone was after their plasma. Nope. But they are willing to provide it for research.

I ate at Panchero's last night. Very few people are eating in yet, no matter where I go. Also, the workers there quit wearing masks for some reason.

Two things that I just don't get yet. One is the long lines at fast food drive-thrus. I can understand why they are popular, since it's safer than eating in now, but for instance, all day today there were long lines at Burger King, Taco John's, and other places. ALL DAY! How can this be?

The second thing is how many help wanted ads there are everywhere. Fast food places, the local butcher, service places. Did people quit and not come back? I don't know.

There's something peculiar at work too. There was some kind of thing about if you felt unsafe due to the virus you could stay home and still get paid. I think 2 drivers are doing this, but I don't understand the workings of it particularly. Nor has it been explained how or when such a setup will end. I don't feel that threatened so I haven't looked into it. Still, seems weird.

I'm beginning to wonder if I should scrap my fall vacation plans as well. This is digging into my personal plans.

I went through the Popeye's drive-thru tonight and noticed the workers are no longer wearing masks, but they were wearing gloves. I'd rather they wear masks.

My web site is http://www.jeffjacobsen.org/covid.htm

7/3/20

Today Trump comes to Mt. Rushmore for fireworks. No masks, no social distancing required for the 7500 who have tickets. Trump is the biggest Super Spreader around right now. And our Governor Noem is his lackey.

7/5/20

Yesterday I was talking to some people in Galena and they just came right up to me and shook hands like no problem. Hand shaking seems scary to me now. Even my cousin didn't have a mask on and wasn't social distancing that particularly.

I ate at Subway today for lunch. The employees there still wear masks and have this trade-in-your-cup thing going on too. Nice to see.

Just back from Safeway. 2 people had their mouths masked but not their noses! Crazy. A majority of workers and small minority of shoppers were masked.

7/6/20

I ate inside at Taco Bell. All the workers had masks. There was plexiglass at the cashier. There was only a worker eating there besides me, but later 2 groups came in. I saw they were both out of state cars.

I gave away the third free mask to a passenger so far.

Pizza Ranch seemed to have a steady stream of cars parked for inside dining today.

I ate at Pauly's tonight, which is set up pretty well for the virus. A strange thing was a guy ordering who kept wanting to stick his face in the gap below the plexiglass to talk to the cashier. I have no idea why he was doing that because you can hear each other very well without doing that.

I wrote a letter to the editor today about our governor fawning over Trump:

We have a governor who has chosen President Trump over her own constituents. First, at Trump's uneducated advice, she decided to make us guinea pigs in an ill-fated test of hydroxychloroquine. Then, after weeks of literally daily demands that we follow CDC guidelines against Covid-19, she throws that all out the window when President Trump decides he needs to watch fireworks at Mt. Rushmore. No masks, no social distancing, nothing. Finally (?) when she is exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, she and Trump pal around on Air Force One like there's no such thing as a pandemic. No quarantine needed, it turns out!

Governor Noem has continually reminded us "I need you to maintain those [CDC] guidelines for several more weeks in order to stay on course for the plan that we laid out." [April 17 update]. But when Trump says jump, Governor Noem says how high. And turns her back not just on her own statements, but on us.

Deadwood 7-6-20
I count 11 people with masks in this Deadwood crowd, 7-6-20

7/10/10

As you can tell, I'm using masks as a gauge for how the community is responding to the pandemic. I've been seeing an inconsistency around lately. Panchero's, for example, now has employees wearing masks once again. Popeye's chicken employees don't wear them now. But I did notice the last time I looked at the Deadwood webcam that I saw several people wearing masks. So this gauge is probably not a good one since it seems to change back and forth.

I am amazed how incompetent our leadership is over the pandemic. There were many plans set out by the federal government over what to do, but Trump canceled and closed down a bunch of that. Now he's trying to wing it with very little experience or brain power and it's killing people.

Also, on Facebook there are a few groups who deliberately spread anti-mask propaganda, which is the craziest thing to me. People swear they would go to war and die for their country, but ask them to wear a mask to help stop a pandemic? No, you're taking away their freedom! “Egalitarian Revolution” is one of these.

A funny thing about people. At the Pauly's there was a guy at the counter talking to the cashier. He kept tilting his head down so he could talk into the gap below the plexiglass barrier. Twice on the bus I've had somebody trying to talk to me and trying to move the clear shower curtain away at the same time. Some people just do not like having a barrier between the person they're talking to. But I think that may be just a desire to not have the communication disabled.

7/13/20

This weekend I ate at Sled Haus in Lead again. No masks anywhere except me when I went in. But we were all eating outdoors anyway. In Deadwood I'm seeing people wearing masks on the street now, but still very few.

7/16/20

Next Monday we go back on our regular work schedule, except no Saturday driving (I don't drive on Saturdays anyway). I went to Menard's tonight for some supplies and you have to wear a mask now to get in. There's a guy at the restricted entrance to make sure you have a mask. Walmart announced that they will be doing that now too. So it's not just the government saying don't spread your covid, it's businesses too.

There's a big debate over how to open schools in the fall. And of course this is a problem because we haven't handled the virus like many other countries have. It's dangerous to send kids to school when a pandemic is growing, rather than in a country where it has been mostly controlled.

When I was in Galena last weekend I was surprised that people just came up to my place to gab. They mostly social distanced (or was that me doing that?) but still it was unexpected.

Still plenty of help wanted signs around town for low-wage jobs.

My personal thoughts on the handling of the virus is that our local community did pretty well, while the state pretended they were being tough when they really weren't. Take for example when Kristi Noem wanted to impress Trump at Mt. Rushmore so she ignored all the CDC rules and had 7500 people smush together unprotected just for a good photo op with the president.

The federal response has been completely insane. There were 10 studies already done and in the stack ready to go, and the Trump administration ignored them all. Obama had left a good plan in place, and even had people in China just in case, but Trump pulled them out and ignored Obama's preparation. So we are stuck just sort of muddling along with no real plan nor leadership, even to this day. Canada and many other countries have gotten a handle on the virus as good as could be expected with no vaccine nor cure in sight. But we have people claiming masks infringe in their “freedom” so they won't wear one. It's insane here.

Feeding South Dakota line at fairgrounds
Feeding South Dakota line at the fairgrounds, 7-15-20

7/19/20

I ate at Mountain Grand casino in Deadwood yesterday. When I went in there was nobody to check my temperature as usual. A janitor with only his mouth covered by his mask was walking by so I asked where the temperature checker guy was. He said they don't do that anymore. I walked by the tables and they were full of people now, with plexiglass between players. I asked the waitress when they stopped checking temperatures and she said maybe 10 days ago, which she regretted.

Walking around Deadwood, though, I'm seeing a gradual rise in how many are wearing masks, even though it's still pitiably low.

Bodega door sign, 7-18-20
Bodega in Deadwood, 7-18-20

7/20/20

Yesterday I went to Safeway which has a sign outside saying that starting July 21, you will need to be wearing a face mask to enter the store. When I went in yesterday most people were wearing masks. The scary thing was, the pharmacist was wearing a mask with his nose sticking out! Alas.

Safeway sign, 7-20-20
Safeway sign at entrance.  How to enforce though?

Again yesterday, and it might have been the same guy, while I was explaining which bus a passenger needed to transfer to, he pulled the curtain away between us, I assume thinking that would be better for communication. It is harder now when passengers and I wear masks, and there's a curtain between us, to communicate clearly. But I still like the bit of safety the curtain provides, unless you pull it away.

Fairgrounds sign 7-20-20
Fairgrounds sign 7-20-20

7/21/20

I heard a bit more about what might be called the Fear Break at work. If you get a doctor's slip that you rightly fear working during the pandemic, you can get up to 12 weeks off paid. I think 4 drivers are doing this. I could do it since I'm 65, but jeez it seems like cheating to me, and the bus system would have to close down if we all did that. So I'll hang in there.

Congress is working on their next pandemic support bill, and it sounds like the idea that essential workers should get a bonus is out the window. Dang it.

Another weird thing I've seen with masks is someone pulling their mask aside when they want to talk. Totally defeats the purpose of a mask. We all need pandemic classes.

My brother Eric posts the daily Arizona virus statistics on Facebook. I post daily charts for countries and states from the Financial Times website. I think they have the best graphing.

7/24/20

I'm still hoping to take a vacation to northern California in late September. The Humboldt County virus rules are pretty interesting. https://humboldtgov.org/2725/Local-Orders

For instance, if I catch the virus while there, I could be forced to stay in my hotel until I've recovered:

“Adult guests must be informed of the potential need to prolong their stay should there be a need to isolate or quarantine and agree upon how ongoing lodging and provision of food and necessities will be managed in this situation. Both operator and guests should be aware that lodging and provision of food and necessities will not be the responsibility of Humboldt County. “

Possibly harsh and expensive. I'll wait 'til early September to decide what to do.

The biggest outbreaks in Pennington county were both at nursing homes. A friend in a nursing home near me is under lockdown, even though their place has not had a virus case. That's probably a wise thing.

7/26/20

I ate at Sled Haus yesterday. No masks, but we were all eating outside. One couple was discussing with the waitress how it's so different depending on what state you're in what the virus rules are.

I didn't go to Deadwood but watched on the webcam for a bit. Didn't see any masks. I'll try to go next weekend.

I'm quite surprised that there wasn't an outbreak from the July 3 Mt. Rushmore fireworks. It seems that being outdoors is a big help to prevent the spread.

7/30/20

Tonight I ate at Millstone Restaurant. They've put plexiglass on the backs of all the booths, which is ok but doesn't really do much. The waitresses and workers wore masks. Other than that I didn't notice much change.

It sounds like school will start Sept. 8, a little late. We'll be back to having all seats open on the buses soon, but everyone will be required to wear a mask (don't know how we'll enforce that). Today I had 9 people on the bus by having people who were together sit together. I still had to tell one guy I was out of room, but he got home on the next trip. Still quite a minority of passengers wearing masks.

I tried out one of the masks we hand out for free. It's just a thin piece of cloth that just fits the nose and mouth. It's got 2 slots on either side so you can adjust somewhat for size to go over the ears. Pretty flimsy but cheap.

I'm used to wearing my mask now. It's not that much of a bother since I have it fitting about the way it's most comfortable. Not as nice as not wearing one, but tolerable.

My overall impression from driving around town all day is that we are getting more lax on stuff. More sports going on. More ignoring of social distancing. Tourists acting as if there is no virus here. On the other hand, some large stores like Safeway are requiring masks now. I don't know what they do with violators. If it was me, I'd just not let them check out. Sorry, we can't serve you unless you wear a mask.

8/3/20

Yesterday I went to Deadwood and ate at Deadwood Grand Casino. Since there were a few groups eating outside, I opted to eat inside. A few minutes later, a group of 6 for some unknown reason chose to move inside and sat at the table right next to me! I should have moved but didn't. The employees were wearing masks but nobody else.

I walked along Main Street for a while and counted 16 masks out of hundreds of people. Then I drove through Sturgis on the way home. I counted 4 masks there as they are getting ready for the motorcycle rally starting next weekend. There were already a lot of tents, booths, and even a carnival set up. Buffalo Chip has been advertising big music concerts on the radio, so that's not gonna help anything either. 200,000 motorcyclists are expected, which is about half of usual.

I forgot to mention my friend flew on an airline a few weeks ago. The plane was 40% full and masks were required. There were signs not to fly if you have symptoms, but nobody took her temperature. They didn't hand out any snacks or anything.

8/5/20

On the Border; still good!

Pauly's still good, but getting crowded

Still don't know what will be done about hauling kids when school starts Sept. 8.

Lots of motorcycles here already. Sturgis Rally, then Central States Fair, then school starts, then Cool Deadwood Nights. We're doomed.

who to believe

8/7/20

I learned today who the 3rd driver who got the virus is. His wife also had it. I haven't talked to him about his experience yet though.

I watched Mt. Rushmore Road tonight to see how many bikers are in town. I would guess it's down by about ½ from last year. The Custer County Fair is this weekend too.

Bus ridership is picking up. I think we will change from 6 passengers only to open but but all must wear masks. This will happen before school starts.

8/10/20

I'm noticing a trend at fast food places. Fewer and fewer require masks for their employees. Both Burger King and Popeye's, for instance, still wear gloves, but no masks. Strange.

8/11/20

I went through the McDonald's drive-thru tonight for the first time in months. They wear masks (except the dude with his nose sticking out). You can order inside but you can't eat inside.

At Subway they still wear masks. Nobody seems to eat inside but me there.

I think the thing about Popeye's is they are just really slow, so they probably have the longest lines because they are the slowest getting out the food.

I had a guy from a roofing company come out to see if the hail damaged my roof (it did). He wasn't wearing a mask, but he sorta kept his distance and basically refused to come in my house.

The insurance adjuster, on the other hand, called me ahead of time to say please stay in your house while I inspect your place, and I'll call you when I'm done and let you know how things are. They are the most strict of any company I've encountered so far.

Somebody has called our state South Dacovid since we're allowing the Sturgis Rally right now. Seems fair.

Office Depot sign, 8-1-20
Office Depot sign, August 1

8/13/20

In the past 6 months I've shaken hands twice. Most people don't even expect it anymore.

Pauly's Pizza is closed with a sign they'll reopen August 17. I thought this was because they might have had a virus problem, but a co-worker says no, the owner closed both of his establishments to keep his workers safe from the rally.

Beauty Supply sign 8-10-20
Beauty supply door sign, 8-10-20

8/18/20

I just had my teeth cleaned. All is well. All the workers and the dentist had double face masks. The cleaner had a face shield too. None of the office staff wore masks but they had them. The place was busy.

At least 2 restaurants succumbed to covid-19. La Costa Restaurant at 6th St. and Omaha, and Denny's up by the mall. There may be others.

Sept. 8 our buses will be open for full capacity again, but all passengers are supposed to wear masks. There is, however, no way for us drivers to enforce this. It's gonna be hectic that week, since school starts then too.

I went through Deadwood on Saturday. I just drove around a bit. Didn't see any masks but still lots of bikes. I went through the Taco John's drive-thru. The workers weren't wearing masks. Sit in was closed.

Sunday I drove through Sturgis and saw a few masks. Most of the vendors were still up but there weren't many bikers left.

8/19/20

Last night I ate at On the Border, which was the first restaurant I saw that started wearing masks and social distancing, even before it was required. It seems that the social distancing part is being relaxed a bit. I sat perhaps 6 feet away from a couple at another table. When I left I saw adjacent tables had dishes and glasses on them, so perhaps things are getting more lax. I noticed this at the outdoor seating at Que Pasa downtown too. Adjacent tables were being used today, which was not happening before.

8/23/20

Friday I ate at Subway. That was fine but one of the 2 workers did not have his nose covered with his mask. After all these months I can't figure out why people don't get this. I didn't say anything but won't be back if I see him working there.

Cuomo nose
Even governors don't get how masks work!

I purposely didn't go anywhere with people yesterday. I only ran into people when I ate at Panchero's. There was a small group eating outside, so I went and sat away from them. But then that group got much bigger and they got closer to me. Still 6' though I'd say. I shopped at Safeway where masks are required.

Thursday I saw the roofers again to sign the contract. Nobody wears a mask there, but also nobody offers to shake hands.

8/26/20

Tonight I went to Lowe's to get some supplies. The cashier had his nose out over his mask. Then I went to Menard's to get some stuff. A customer was running around with a mask hanging off his ear. I don't know quite how Menard's would enforce mask wearing, but for some reason he was wearing it on the way to his car. On the way home I went through the Popeye's drive-thru, which was actually much less busy. 2 of the workers inside had their noses sticking out over their masks. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!!

The Central States Fair is going on here. Lots of places I see people interacting normally, like sport teams practicing and such. I think it's impossible for human beings to work together against a virus that could kill them. At least Americans.

Yesterday (8/28/20) I was in Deadwood, where a classic car show is going on. LOTS of people, no social distancing, no masks. I dropped something off at the Adams Museum. The receptionist had no mask but the person I needed to see did. Ate at Sled Haus, where I know they never have masks but I can eat outside.

Today, 8/29/20, I ate at Wendy's. The cashier had his nose sticking out. I think all the other workers had masks on ok. In general, few people eat inside restaurants compared to before. There are exceptions to this, such as Firehouse downtown, which seems to always be busy.

My cousin came over to chat in Galena, and we kept about 8 feet apart and had a nice conversation. She's a bit older than me and likes to stay safe.

What with the Sturgis Rally, Deadwood Nights, Central States Fair, schools opening, etc., of course the state covid stats are going up. Our governor seems to think as long as citizens have freedom, that's the best we can do, just trust each person's choice on how to handle the virus.

Menard's inside sign 8-21-20
Menard's sign and enforcer

8/31/20

 

I've been to at least 8 businesses now where an employee has a mask on but their nose sticking out. Why is this so difficult???

I finally ate at Pizza Ranch, which is a buffet. When they re-opened they advertised that employees would get your food rather than have everybody hovering around the buffet. But when I went yesterday, it was just a regular buffet again. The employees wore masks, there was a hand sanitizing station, and that's about all that seemed different.

I'm still debating whether to take a trip to California. The virus makes things difficult to plan. What places that I want to go to are even open? What restrictions are there in the states I will be driving through? What happens if I get sick? What happens if I get involved in a quarantine, like in Humboldt County where they can quarantine me for up to 2 weeks? Is it cheaper or more expensive to go now? Should I visit friends if we might give each other the virus? I'll have to decide soon.

9/3/20

Tonight I went to Millstone for dinner. They don't do the 6 foot distance thing, instead relying on about 2 foot high plexiglass pieces they put between the back-to-back tables. I think that's cheating. All the workers wore masks though.

Last night I went to Menard's As I was walking in a couple was also walking in. A worker there hailed the man and asked him to put on his mask. He waved it at the worker, then continued on in to the store. I never saw him put it on. I saw another customer with a mask below his chin. When I checked out I asked the cashier if they enforce their mask rule. She said they did.

9/6/20

I was in Deadwood yesterday and watched the Shootout on Main Street. Performers close the street and gather tourists to sit on either curb as they act out a shootout and other things. I took photos of the crowd to see how many were wearing masks (not many). And obviously they weren't social distancing. And obviously the performers didn't care. I see this everywhere. Daycare kids playing together without masks. Sports teams practicing in fields. But I did see the Central High School band practicing and they did seem to be trying to social distance.

Every business I go to now, there's that one employee with his or her nose sticking out over their mask. At Wendy's what seemed to be the manager even had her mask just covering her chin. At the Taco John's everybody seemed to be wearing a mask except the guy running the drive-thru window. He had a mask but it was not on.

South Dakota stats spiked after the rally and seem to be staying at that new height for now. And tomorrow school starts here. Yay. Now I'll be one of those people trying to enforce a mask-required rule.

One driver quit to drive school bus instead. If they take a course they can make extra money by foggint the bus to kill the virus after each run.

9/9/20

Yesterday was the first day when the bus was re-opened for all seats, but now we require that passengers wear a mask. Everybody complied today on that. I handed out 2 masks to people that didn't have one. It was also the day when we start hauling students again. I was on the Roosevelt route, which goes by South Park elementary to pick up students there, but there weren't any. I did pick up three students at Central High. It was actually a pretty quiet day.

9/11/20

Still not a lot of students riding the bus. I'm not sure where they are. Ridership in general is still going up. At our low we were averaging about 40 rides per day per bus (these are my estimates) and now we're maybe up to 70. I've had no problem with anyone refusing to wear a mask, though I've had to hand out a few of our masks to people who maybe didn't know about the new rule.

I ate at Pauly's last night, which I consider one of the places that takes the virus seriously. But the tables are actually kinda too close together and it was getting a bit crowded to me. I might start just doing takeout from there.

Pizza Hut on West Main closed. But they seemed to be going downhill anyway so I wouldn't chalk that up to the virus particularly.

The paper that came out September 5, “The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19”, is drawing a lot of pushback from our governor. She calls it fiction. While I think the paper is overly pessimistic, it does show the danger of such gatherings with no fear of the virus. There's a crazy youtube video of interviews of rally goers explaining why they don't worry about the virus (https://youtu.be/UK2FBEpmlUo). But our state government insists on only asking for voluntary compliance with mask wearing and social distancing. They will go no farther than that.

9/16/20

Today was the first person who didn't want to wear a mask on the bus. He got on without a mask. I asked him if he had one and he said no, so I gave him one of our free ones. I can't really see well inside the back of the bus because of the clear shower curtain, so I couldn't tell if he was wearing it or not. When he got up to get off after I stopped, he pulled the curtain aside and tried to hand me the mask, saying “this is a child size mask.” I said I didn't want it so he just dropped it there and got off. I noticed today that some people who get on with a mask somehow wind up leaving the bus with the mask off. I'll have to try to keep a sharper eye on that.

The motorcycle rally made a visible spike in cases here and in other places, but the numbers are going back down now. Still, that spike could have been avoided, at least to some extent.

9/18/20

I ordered a $25 mask that seemed to be the ultimate to me. Now that I've warn it a few days, it is definitely the most comfortable mask. The cloth is smooth , the size is a bit bigger, but it's still not worth $25. My second preference of my dozen masks is the one that is a square piece that covers from my neck to my eyes. It eventually rubs on my nose, but other than that it's comfortable.

The masks we hand out at work are a single layer of cloth and a bit too small. I tried one on and, as a big guy, they are small but still can be worn. One guy got on the bus without a mask so I gave him one. When he got off he pulled the shower curtain away and tried to hand it back to me. “This is a child's mask” he said, while I tried to avoid the mask. He tossed it beside me and got off the bus.

bus mask
the mask we hand out to passengers with no mask

I think of how we could have been prepared for this pandemic. Masks should have come out immediately, with instructions on how to use them. Instead, the health experts said they weren't needed, which I attribute to them trying to prevent a run on masks and making them unavailable for health care workers. But this was a flat-out lie, and it turned out people spontaneously made millions of masks within days, so not only did they lie to us, but their fears were somewhat unfounded.

We could have been geared up to quickly find a cheap, easy, quick test kit. I think that was more important than pouring billions into finding a vaccine first. A vaccine may never be found, but the test kits could have been figured out much more quickly with that kind of investment.

We could have looked into the 10 federal preparation documents that already existed. Instead, the Trump administration disbanded what had already been set up. And then they worked on the assumption that “this will all disappear.” So not much was done very well at the beginning. And thus we were left to sort of learn as we go.

I ate at IHOP tonight. It's a big place with lots of seating, but the waitress stuck everybody in one aisle, I assume to make life easier for her. I'm sure some of us were closer than 6 feet so I won't go back there. No one was wearing a mask.

9/22/20

People get on the bus with a mask, then take the mask off while on the bus. I don't get it. It's almost impossible for me to see that when I'm driving because of the clear shower curtain. But I see it when they get off. I'll have to be more diligent about that.

2 drivers were off sick yesterday. I hope it wasn't the virus. Someone in the office was coughing. I spook easily now.

At the depot when all the buses are in waiting for the next run, sometimes someone comes up to ask a question. This is now difficult with 6 buses idling nearby. You can stay 6 feet apart, or wear masks, but you can't do both and be heard. So I get close to the person but keep my mask on.

Still seeing lots of help wanted signs. Still seeing long lines at fast food drive-thrus, which I now partially attribute to the inside dining being closed. So those people are now also out at the drive-thru. Still seeing a minority of people wearing masks and social distancing.

9/23/20

There's one regular rider that I caught continually with his mask on his chin, so I warned him twice he needed to wear the mask. I told the driver of the bus he transferred to to keep an eye on him, and that driver warned him a couple of times too. My manager is supposed to talk to him today about the requirement to keep his mask on. He may be the first person we ban for not wearing a mask.

The guy who gave me the mask back the other day still forgets his own mask, but he's complying and wearing our masks now. All in all things are going well mask-wise, except a few people for some reason take them off after they sit down. I guess we'll have to keep an eye out for that better.

I went last night for On the Border's Taco night, but there was a 20 minute wait there. Right next door Popeye's had an incredibly short line, so I went there instead.

9/25/20

Normally I don't hear people coughing or sneezing on the bus. But yesterday a lady transferred to me on the Lincoln run going north. She started right out with a strong dry cough. Then as we took off heading north she said “aren't you going by the hospital?” No, I said, but I will be on the next run so you may as well stay on. I picked up a few more passengers, including some people who knew the cougher and chatted with her. She coughed rarely, but it was a pretty deep cough. Finally she got off near the hospital when I went south. This is something that I dread and can do nothing about.

I'm on a 2-week vacation now. I completely changed my travel plans from a long 7-state trek, to a 2-state sprint. I'm mostly wondering where people pee on the road. Meanwhile, South Dakota is under a surge of Covid cases. I suppose South Dakotans would not be too welcome in other states anyway.

9/28/20

Yesterday I ate at Culver's. They were quite recent in re-opening their dining area. They seem pretty dedicated to fighting the virus though. All workers had masks and gloves. The tables were spread apart. You had to ask for a new cup if you wanted more pop (which I still don't quite get).

I'm planning a trip to Yankton and back through Nebraska. I can't go to Wounded Knee because the reservation is closed down. Some museums are still closed. So it's quite a pain to plan. Also, where to pee along the way? Where can I eat besides drive-thru? I had planned 3 2-week trips, but now it's boiled down to just this 4-day 2-state quicky.

10/1/20

Today I went to Enterprise Rent a Car. There was a sign on the front door that said masks required, and please wait here. So I waited outside and an employee came out and told me I could come in. Everybody was wearing a mask except the secretary at the desk. Then another customer came in and he never had a mask on either. So much for code enforcement.

While South Dakota Covid cases are spiking, I'm planning my severely scaled-down vacation trip. I'm just going to Pierre, Yankton, and back. 5 days total. I hope to hit a few museums, which require you to call ahead, and Ft. Robinson in Nebraska on the way back. Many other things I planned to do were stopped because of the virus. But it should be fun enough. There's a special session being held in Pierre of the legislature, but it might actually be held online, so I'd miss even that too.

I went on a 5-day trip through South Dakota and Nebraska. Monday morning I went to a special session of the legislature at the Capitol. About ½ the legislators had masks. There was no real social distancing practiced. About 30 people were in the balcony, and maybe ¼ had masks. When the governor came in she and her entourage were not wearing masks. The governor's speech was touting the freedom from government rules in South Dakota, meaning no requirements for face masks or anything really. Her general rule of thumb is ICU capacity. So long as the hospitals have room for severe cases, we're all good apparently.

The workers at the hotel in Pierre had masks. Also the Italian restaurant I ate at.

In Yankton the hotel registers did not wear masks but were behind plexiglass. A sign on the door asked customers to wear a mask. The 2 places where I ate, employees wore masks, and at the museum I went to. The Yankton museum had a display about the 1918 pandemic so I took a bunch of photos of that.

sign in the Yankton Museum
sign at the Yankton Museum from 1918

The Gayville small restaurant where I ate only had one employee and she didn't wear a mask. No customers wore masks except me.

In Chadron the hotel employee did not wear a mask but head plexiglass. The waitress did wear a mask when I went to eat.

At Ft. Robinson the employees had masks as did several visitors. At the Pizza Hut in Custer one worker had a mask while the other had his nose sticking out. I went to the soda fountain to refill my cup and the worker asked me to please ask them for a new cup before I refilled again. This was the first time I'd had that rule enforced while I've seen it on signs in other eateries. I still don't quite get the purpose of that except somehow your germs get from your cup to the soda dispenser.

And then I was home again.

10/15/20

Ridership on the buses has definitely gone up during my vacation time. We were doing, by my count, about 200 rides per day on each route before the virus hit. We then went down to about 40 per day. Before I left we were gradually heading up to about 80 per day. Now we're doing about 100 per day. I notice a big rise in the number of students riding.

I kicked a guy off the bus today. I had a suspicion he was drunk. When I was picking people up at Walmart, I saw he didn't have his mask on. I told him to put it on but he just mumbled and didn't. I then got up and went back to him. It seemed obvious he couldn't comply because he was drunk. So indirectly this is the first person I've kicked off for not wearing a mask.

Prices at fast food places are going up, but also wages. A sign at Burger King(?) said starting wages at $11/hour. Little Caesar's sign today said $13/hour. And Target has a starting wage now of $15/hour. This is a good thing.

No drivers have been sick since the 2-week lockdown.

10/20/20

I asked on Facebook and Twitter:

“1. How often do you wash your mask?

2. Do you wash it by hand or with the laudry?

  1. How many masks do you own?”

These are some answers:

* When it gets a little funky and changing the filter doesn't help.

* Hand wash. 1/2" of hot water and a little detergent in the bottom of the laundry sink.

* A bunch. A box of decent disposables and several (probably six or so?) nicer ones that take replacement filters. I usually have a nice one and a couple of disposables in my pocket.

* Hand Wash it every use.

* IN hot water with soap then hang it to dry.

* We have over 30 but he works with the public and changes them several times a day. We also have disposable ones that work during fast trips to the store.

* When I'm in the hospital having Test or procedures done I have special masks to protect me.

Hand sanitizer around us at all times

Gloves for going in and out of buildings.

* After every use. In hot water, in the washing machine (in a delicates bag). I have eight, but I leave the house maybe once a month.

* Toss in the laundry, use lysol laundry sanitizer, I have about 50, I make them

* I own 2 which I hand-wash after every work shift and I have a stack of disposables in my car that I use for trips to the store or whatever on my days off.

* I wash a mask about once a day by hand. When it's time to do laundry (about every 2-3 weeks), I re-wash all of the masks I've used in the machine.

Once a week, after 2 wearings. Around 8-10 masks at once, for 2 people.

*  In a “delicates” net bag, in the washing machine on a special setting, along with all the underthings that don’t hold up well when washed on normal mode.

* It was two dozen, but I’ve begun tossing ones out here and there that got shabby looking after a few months in the rotation.

* I have probably 2 dozen masks, maybe more. I wash them in a zipped mesh bag in the washer, then hang dry. I have enough masks to wear them once then wash them.

* I mostly use disposable ones. I have 2 made of fabric, I pour boiling water after use, and then hang them up and let them dry.

* * * * * * * * * *

I was at McKie Ford today to get an oil change. It was a strange hodge-podge of who was wearing a mask. Most of the in-office people weren't. About 2/3 of the customers were. And most of the workers were, but the manager wasn't. Kinda strange.

NPR today reported that the virus seems to be getting less lethal. This is a good thing. It made me wonder, when will it be appropriate to call the pandemic over? The 1918 pandemic sort of fizzled out after 1.5 years, as the virus got less powerful. If that happens now, how are we going to call an end to the pandemic? I wonder if people have thought about this?

10/23/20

I got my 2nd haircut since the pandemic. You are required to sign in online then they tell you when you can come. Everybody wears a mask. There are shower curtains between stalls but otherwise I didn't see any internal changes. The haircutter efficiently moved my mask ear cords around to cut my hair everywhere. I don't think it took any longer than usual because of this. So it was a fine experience.

The hair cutter place wanted customers to wear an over-the-ear type mask, which I didn't have. I snagged one at the Ford dealer when getting my oil changed. It's one of those blue cloth throw aways. First time I ever wore one: very comfortable and breathable.

I then went to Safeway and saw 3 customers without a mask. This I think is the most ever. I don't know who there enforces the mask rule but they weren't on the job this time.

10/24/20

For some reason I decided I needed to eat at Sickie's today. I don't really think their food is that great, but whatever. They sat me near a group of 15 people none of whom were wearing masks. Some of the workers were not masked either, but my waitress was. I kept my mask on until the group gradually started leaving. In general 90% of the people there weren't masked, I'd guess. When I go to a sit-in place I keep my mask on until I start eating, then put it on again as I'm leaving.

Then I went to Scheel's to buy some shoes. I'd say 90% of the people there were masked, including all the workers. Saw a few chin masks and one nose-peeker. I forgot to look if they had a sign on the door requiring masks.

I then went to Hippie Haven where one lady was wearing a mask and one was not. Quick in and out there just to pick up an order.

10/27/20

Every day every driver is supposed to disinfect their bus. We haven't really been trained how to do this but we've been given some disinfectant that is supposed to kill the virus. Reading the directions, you're supposed to wipe on the liquid, then towel it off after 10 minutes. Of course this is impossible for us since we probably have like 5 minutes between runs when we can do this. So I use paper hand towels, spray the disinfectant on the towel, and rub it on all hard surfaces where people might touch, such as the railings and seat backs that have hand supports. I also clean the stop cord used to say you want off the bus. I also disinfect the bus driver area, such as the buttons we push and the steering wheel. I usually manage to do this completely once in my shift.

I see a couple of drivers on the island lift their mask to talk to passengers. This goes back to what I said before. At the island there are 6 diesel buses idling close together. When 2 people are wearing masks and trying to stay 6 feet apart, it is impossible to communicate. I choose to get closer to the person, while others choose to lift their mask to be understood better. I see no way around this.

I ate at On the Border last night. Nothing has changed there. I ate at Pauly's tonight. Same, except more of the people coming in had masks on.

shirts for sale in Deadwood
shirts for sale in Deadwood

11/1/20

I noticed a sign at the AMC theater that they are open again. There weren't many cars there. As much as I like going to the movies I think I'll pass.

Our governor for some unknown reason, despite all the statistics showing we're not handling the virus, claims that everything is fine. She seems to be taking her cues from Trump. She says there's not enough evidence that masks are useful. Very strange and scary.

11/2/20

I ate at Deadwood Grand and gambled a tad. They don't have the “we cleaned this machine” stickers on the slot machines anymore. Instead there's a “we fog this place” sign toward the entrance. I forgot to take a pic of that. All workers wore masks but most of the sparse customers didn't. Downtown was pretty quiet, but for the first time I'd say most people were wearing masks, like 51%.

11/3/20

I just finished voting in person. I got to the polling place at 7:48, got to the door at 8:06, and left at 8:16. The line was “long” but that was because people were social distancing. About ½ the people outside were wearing masks, but I think some put them on when they got inside too. Masks were not required. There were masks available inside.

The pen you use to sign in, you keep and use for voting, then take home. The ballot comes in a paper sleeve that you toss when you're done. 10 tables were about 10' apart. The workers, who were all young (usually they're about retirement age), had a plexiglass screen in front of them, but it was only about 2 feet wide so not so useful except to protect from sneezes I guess.

As I was leaving someone in line asked if masks were required. I answered that they had masks inside.

I just drove by my polling place at 11:30 and the line was just as long as when I was there.

I drove by West Middle School, the Canyon Lake Drive senior center, and the fairgrounds polling places. West Middle School had a small line outside, but the others had no line that I could see. There were plenty of cars at all places though.

11/4/20

I  was at the pharmacy in Safeway and saw a sign for at-home Covid-19 tests. How much, I asked? $139.

11/5/20

A guy at work got tested this week. He said they tested him with that long swab that goes to the back of your nose, and it hurt. The nurse gave him a tissue and said you'll need this, to wipe his teary eyes. He said it hurt for a bit after also. He tested negative.

Meanwhile, South Dakota has the largest new cases rate in the country. I'm sure our governor, though, is just looking at our economy, and making sure there's at least one ICU bed still available, so she can declare victory.

It's a bit scary driving strangers around on the bus, but so far almost everyone automatically masks up and I haven't had any problems to speak of. When possible I keep the windows open to get some fresh air circulating, which I consider the best prevention tool available.

11/7/20

It bums me out when a store has a "masks required" sign out front but then they don't enforce it, like at Safeway tonight. but to be fair, they seemed severely short-handed and the checkout lines were very long. I heard one employee complaining about people "who have to have nights and weekends off." There were about 6 people with no mask.

11/9/20

I heard today a driver tested positive for antibodies, even though he never knew he had the virus. He was sick over the summer for a bit but thought it was food poisoning. I don't hang around much with this driver, but it's now a mystery whether he gave it to anybody else.

I ate at the Pizza Ranch buffet yesterday, about 3 pm so there wouldn't be many people there. The only thing different inside is the workers wear masks, there's one place with hand sanitizer, and a sign that says please keep social distancing. So this pretty big place is almost empty, and who comes in after me but a lady with three kids, who promptly choose the booth right next to mine. I was a bit pissed but didn't move. Other people started showing up just as I was finishing. So, buffets are out.

11/13/20

I went to Menard's tonight to get some gravel. As I was in line the lady asked the guy in front of me to please put his mask on. He put it barely over his mouth, leaving his nose out. Another guy was leaving without a mask on, but I don't know if he had taken it off as he was leaving or not. I asked the cashier “are there people all the time who won't wear a mask still?” She said “every day.”

11/18/20

Not much different for me. But the state has gone nuts. Our governor keeps saying masks aren't very helpful and generally being of no help.  Links to articles here, here, and here.

So we're getting a lot of publicity worldwide about how poorly she is managing the virus.

Meanwhile, cities are starting to enact mask requirements, like Sioux Falls, Spearfish, and Rapid City.

So I live in one of the worst states in one of the worst countries for handling the virus.

11/21/20

Was just chatting with the driver who had Covid-19. He said he got tested 4 times, and it hurt each time.

Rapid City voted 5-4 to pass a mask requirement ordinance. A second reading is still required. Lots of people spoke or wrote against it.

I'm signed up to get tested tomorrow. This weekend you can get tested for free after signing up online. You have to fill out a questionnaire, and I apparently qualified, though I don't know if they actually turn away young healthy people or not. The questions were how old are you, do you have symptoms, etc. So somebody must not make since they have those questions.

South Middle School sign, 11-21-20
South Middle School sign, 11-21-20

11/22/20

I gave blood today, so in a few days I'll get an antibodies report. Plus I got tested in the free testing weekend here, at the Fairgrounds. You drive in with your printed out form and are directed into one of five lanes set up. A nurse asks you to fold up your form a certain way so the bar code is out. Then she hands you a plastic packet and has you put the form into the sleeve of the packet. Then she has you take out the wand and a vial. The wand is one of the long ones used to scrape the deep back of your nose, which my fellow driver says really hurts. But instead she had me just run the swab around inside my nostril 5 times, then the other nostril 5 times. Then I broke off the long handle of the wand, and stuck it swab first into the vial. Sealed the vial, stuck it in the packet, sealed the packet, handed it to the nurse, and ta da, done in probably 4 minutes. In all that the nurse only handled the sealed packet, greatly reducing her handling of anything from the visitors. There were a few other cars, but no real line. You had to sign up for certain times, and mine was 1pm to 1:10pm. I got there right at 1. Last day is tomorrow.

There are some places that had inside dining that don't now. Wendy's, Arby's, and probably others. The Wendy's door said the inside was “temporarily closed.”

11/25/20

Another driver who has been out sick has the virus. And one driver who was complaining of not feeling well yesterday stayed home today. He may have the virus too. I generally stay about 10 feet away from other drivers in the waiting room, so I think I'm reasonably safe from catching it from other drivers. But of course we do interact some. So here's hoping.

Haven't received test results from the virus test nor antibodies yet.

I ate at On the Border last night. There were not many customers, so I was quite surprised when they sat a couple that came in after me at the table right next to a group of 4. This place is pretty big and they could have easily put them many other places where they'd have spaced out groups, so I have no clue why that happened. All the workers at least wear masks.

I'd like to go to Sled Haus in Lead, but it only feels safe there to me when I can eat outside. The workers there never wear masks. So since it's gotten colder my places to eat out have dwindled.

I shopped at Family Fare tonight and about 1/3 of the customers weren't wearing masks. The sign at the door requests masks but doesn't say you must have a mask. I think all the workers had a mask, though.

Sometimes people get on the bus and I don't notice they don't have a mask. That happened with a few kids yesterday, and one guy today. I need to pay better attention. When I ask them to put on a mask they always do, or they come up and get one.

My 2-week vacation starts today. I plan to mostly be at home but I might go to the Badlands.

11/29/20

I'm a bit discouraged by what's going on here. Our governor pretends you can't fight the virus, so just wash your hands. When I go out, even to stores that have signs requiring masks, I see people without masks. What bugs me the most, though, is seeing people wearing a mask but with their noses out. There is no excuse for thinking your nose is not connected to your breathing. It's ridiculous.

I went to Java Joint in Lead for the first time and got a malt. The worker did not have a mask. I went to the hardware store in Deadwood and NOBODY had a mask except me. Deadwood has a new mask ordinance but I think it allows business owners to choose how to handle that.

12/1/20

Yesterday I got an email that my covid test was “incomplete.”

“Your recent COVID-19 test returned a result of Incomplete. This result can occur if there was a problem with how the sample was collected or with the test itself. It could also mean that you created a test voucher but did not actually complete the test.

It is possible that you have the virus, therefore it is recommended that you take precautions to prevent further infection. You need to be retested in order to confirm whether or not you are infected.

If you did in fact complete a test and the issues with your original specimen are resolved, and a result is obtained, the result will be posted to the website and you will be notified via email that there is an update.

To schedule a retest, please visit the website at www.doineedacovid19test.com to select a test location, date and time convenient to you.”

So I go to the web site and find out that “There are no locations in your area with tests currently available.” This is not helpful. I've been mostly isolating since I found out 2 drivers apparently caught the virus. The last time I was in contact with either was a week ago. I'll just go out when I need to like usual and avoid as much human contact as possible for another week. But actually, I pretty much do that anyway. It's nice to be on vacation now for an extra layer of isolation.

Social Security sign 12-1-20
Social Security door sign, 12-1-20

12/13/20

The state is offering free at-home tests, so I signed up yesterday. They mail you a kit, then you have to go on zoom with a nurse to make sure you do the test properly, then you send it in for results. I've only used zoom once before so I'll have to practice that. Their web site is covid.cdc.gov.

At Safeway today everybody except one guy had a mask. The cashier said they are having trouble keeping workers, as some get sick, some just don't come in, and some quit. I see that most low-wage places are looking for workers, and offering $11/hour or more. I don't really know why all these places are having trouble finding workers.

At Menard's a couple nights ago they had one “you must have a mask sign” outside the door, and their huge sign right inside. I think everybody I saw had a mask but one guy.

This is the last day of my 2-week vacation. I handed in my resignation later and will be quitting January 21. The pandemic played a partial role in my decision-making, but mostly I think it's about time anyway. Although I don't worry about getting the virus at work that much, on the other hand 5 drivers have come down with it.

12/15/20

I learned at work that the 2nd recent driver who got sick didn't have Covid-19 but just had similar symptoms to the other driver who did catch it. They've both fine and back at work. I haven't asked the guy who got it how bad it was for him.

The thing that bugs me the most when I go places is people who have a mask but have their nose sticking out. The waiter at On the Border tonight was doing that. There is NO excuse for that at this late date.

Statistics for the state and even states in the area are going down for the past week, but I don't understand why. It's nothing our governments have done. It's not the populous suddenly following CDC guidelines. So I can't explain it.

12/18/20

I went to Five Guys last night for the first time since the virus hit. Everybody except people eating had masks on. People were social distancing as much as possible, though at times it was a bit crowded. It seemed as safe as possible.

Regional stats (South Dakota and surrounding states) are still going down for some unknown reason.

lexan shield replaces curtain in bus
curtains replaced with lexan shields in bus.  I prefer this.

12/19/20

Today I took the at-home Covid-19 test. It's a little kit that has a plastic tube with a funnel. You spit into the funnel until you have enough spit up to a marked point on the tube. Then you take off the funnel and screw on a cap that has a blue liquid in it. Once the cap is on tight the blue liquid flows into your spit. You shake it for 5 seconds, then put it in the provided mailer and send it off to be tested. All free. But you do this on a zoom call so a trained person watches and helps make sure you do everything correctly. At first my video wasn't working so I had to fix that and call back. But otherwise it was a simple procedure. I should have taken pictures though!

at-home test

12/21/20

My Covid-19 test came back negative. I got an email this afternoon, so that was pretty fast turnaround time.

Lately I've seen more people take off their masks to have a conversation. I can understand that in some situations such as around the bus terminal island where there are 6 diesel buses idling and it's hard to hear anyway, but still it completely defeats the purpose of a mask.

12/27/20

NPR just did a segment on how it's now known that catching Covid-19 from a surface is unlikely. We've been disinfecting like crazy, and at work we are supposed to disinfect the bus at least once each shift. I noticed when I used the disinfectant, even when I washed my hands right after, that it was drying out the skin on my fingers. So I started to wear gloves whenever I cleaned from then on. I'll be happy when we can go back to milder cleaning products.

South Dakota's stats are back down almost to where they were on October 10 when Governor Noem made her bragging speech about how well South Dakota was doing with the virus. What she meant was, how well the economy was doing. I call the ensuing weeks the Kristi Bump because the stats started shooting up right after her speech. Many deaths, hospitalizations, and work days missed later, we are back down to the October 10 levels. This will be her legacy.

12/30/20

I drove by AMC theaters yesterday and there were about 20 cars there. They seem to be slowly building up again. I will not be going there.

I did go to On the Border last night for supper. They put me near a group of about 10 people, which I was not happy about. There were plenty of empty tables around, so I think they are dropping their seriousness about the virus.

In general this is what I see at businesses for handling the virus; all workers wear masks, there is a tiny table with hand sanitizer, the cashier has a piece of plexiglass of varying size and usefulness in front of them, there is a sign at the door saying either that masks are required or requested. Often there are signs reminding people to stay 6 feet apart.

My personal weaknesses for keeping the virus away are my job as bus driver and my occasional bouts of dining out. I try to keep both as safe as possible though. I also take Vitamin D3 every day, check my temperature morning and night, and otherwise avoid people. This latter is not too hard since I'm a natural recluse anyway.

Today at work we added up how many people there had come down with Covid-19. 8 – 6 drivers and 2 office workers. Only one had to go to the hospital but most of the others got really sick.

I went by the Golden Ticket movie theater by the mall early this evening. I'd guess there were about 30 cars there. No thanks.

Tonight I stopped into Family Fare for a couple of items. Only about ½ the people there had masks. And several of those with masks had their noses sticking out. I'll stick to Safeway.

I still can't figure out why the region (Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming) stats are going down. Nothing in particular happened that I know of to account for this.

1/5/21

I got an oximeter just in case.

I went to Puerto Vallarta today to see if that might be a nice replacement for On the Border. When I walked in I saw 2 workers without masks, and I walked right back out.

The regional stats have started to go back up. Will have to keep an eye on that.

1/7/20

Today was a weird day at work. I had to tell several people to put their masks on. Fortunately everybody complies. One older lady was talking on her phone and I noticed she didn't have her mask on. I told her to put it on, which she did, after her call. When she got off she apologized and said she had to take the call. This mask thing really bugs me because it's so simple yet so unproperly follow. For instance, the lady who thought she could talk on the phone without her mask. Or people STILL who have their nose sticking out of the mask. I can't think of a simpler effective thing to do to prevent the virus spreading, yet it seems to be beyond some people. This is something I watch for as a barometer to how things are going.

1/14/21

I am no longer a bus driver except as a fill-in driver. In the year of Covid I never had a rider refuse to wear a mask. Many times I had to remind people to put a mask on or give them one, but people always (at least eventually) complied. A few people would get on, then take their mask off, which I could never figure out.

For some reason there is a higher percentage of mask-wearers at Safeway than at Family Fare. But I think the Safeway percentage is going down some too, even though it's still a requirement.

At Deadwood Grand yesterday I saw they have signs all over saying a mask is required in public places. Yet I saw several people gambling without a mask. I spent the night and ate there. My waiter had his nose sticking out from his mask. Deadwood Grand was really strict and one of the best businesses at the beginning of the pandemic, but they've gone downhill now.

Deadwood Grand wall sign

Deadwood Grand cleaning method

1/18/21

I actually did some shopping today. At Target there was a worker at the door next to a tree of face masks. I asked if I came in without a mask he would give me one? “Yes sir.” Cool, I said. Even so, there was some people in the store without masks somehow.

I got a haircut at Great Clips. The chairs were a bit less than 6 feet apart but they were spread out anyway. After the person before me got her haircut done, the worker cleaned down the chair. Everybody had masks on. I had my over-the-ear mask on as they asked. They just move the mask cords out of the way when needed to clip around the ears. It was all fine. They were pretty busy.

I then went to Lowe's and saw a few people once again without masks. All the workers had masks.

1/20/21

Yesterday I went to Family Fare to just grab something. As I was checking out I asked the checker what percentage of people shopping there had masks. She reckoned about 65%. She was looking forward to getting the vaccine as soon as possible.

Today I went to Murphy's Bar and Grill to celebrate Biden's inauguration. I don't think anyone in the place (which was not very busy) had a mask on. Not workers nor customers. The tables were not spread apart nor marked in any way to designate that certain ones should not be used. I tried to sit the farthest from anybody else in there at the time.

The Covid-19 stats for the region are still going down for some unknown reason. NPR said that 1 out of 8 South Dakotans have had the virus now.

1/24/21

This bugs me more and more, as it should be clear by now, after a year, that a mask is pretty much useless if it doesn't also cover your nose. A worker at the Subway had her nose sticking out like it was the most normal thing there is. Not going back there.

The state and region are definitely seeing a dropoff in cases, despite rises in other states and countries. I have no explanation for this except it must be how it ended during the Spanish Flu epidemic, with it just gradually dying out. At least I hope that's what's happening.

1/29/21

I went to Pierre on Monday to visit the Capitol and play tourist a bit. I ate at Perkins, where one waitress had her nose sticking out once in a while (buy a better mask!), and then after I was seated in the almost empty restaurant (I try to eat at off times) they sat a group of 4 right next to me! No reason for that whatever.

I ate at Guadalajara's and no workers wore a mask. People were seated spaced apart though I think.

Also when I ate at Red Rossa they sat me next to a couple already there. Again, this is at an almost empty restaurant. I think now that waiters just do this so it's less walking for them. Otherwise I see no advantage to it and a huge disadvantage to spreading Covid.

Now on to the Capitol. I sat in both houses for a while taking notes and watching. I'd say 1/3 of the legislators wore masks, and probably 1/3 of the visitors. ALL of the workers, like the interns, wore masks. I later saw the governor at the foot of the steps talking to about a dozen people. Nobody was wearing a mask.

In the chambers there were lexan sheets set up here and there. I'm thinking these might have been an option for the legislators, but I only saw the sheets used as chair dividers in I think 3 cases. There were sheets around the pedestal area and around the dude who sits by the back door.

Fist bumps seem to have replaced handshaking there. I saw no one shake hands but a few fist bumps.

There are 2 super-spreader events in the state this weekend. The Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo will be in Rapid City, while the Sioux Falls Farm Show will be on the eastern side of the state. No masks required in Rapid, but they are in Sioux Falls.

2/3/21

The CDC has now mandated masks in public transportation. They designate what is a mask and how it needs to be worn. This is good. Locally here I think it means the city will need to replace the cheap one-layer masks they hand out on the buses for something a bit more robust. Other than that, though, we've been mandating masks for months.

Regionally Covid stats have still been going down. Yesterday morning on SDPB someone from Monument Health said that it's possible that up to 60% of South Dakotans have already had Covid-19. That would certainly explain the downturn of cases. Plus the state has been pretty good about getting the vaccine out, though that is still a small percentage of the population.

Kristi Noem's legacy
Kristi Noem's legacy

2/5/21

I was at Family Fare yesterday and only saw one person without a mask. A nice change. Today at Safeway probably 95% were wearing masks.

2/8/21

Mall report. I haven't been there in a year I think. Went to buy some clothes. 7 storefronts empty, including the My Pillow store. A few stores had "mask required" signs, but most did not, and the surprising thing is most employees I saw there were not wearing masks. Maybe 1/2 of the customers were. It was pretty quiet there, about 2pm.

I bought a book at a bookstore here. The cashier was having trouble so the manager came over to help, with his nose sticking over his mask. Really, it's been a year, and people still don't get this? Most of the people had masks on. I think there was a “mask required” sign at the front.

2/14/21

It's been below zero here so I've just been staying at home except for taking walks. Today I made a mask-comparison video taking advantage of the cold, where you can see my breath and see how masks slow down my coughing and such. https://youtu.be/NWvoUvE3ai8

Stats are still going down here and regionally, and vaccine distribution is going pretty well. I'm still not qualified to get a vaccine, even though I'm 65. So still waiting for that.

my mask colleciton
my mask collection

2/25/21

some photos from the mall.

candy_and_hand_sanitizer
candy and hand sanitizer

mall clothing store
clothing store

Mall Eddie Bauer
Eddie Bauer store

Mall Famous Shoes sign
Famous Shoes

Mall foot Locker
Foot Locker.  They show you HOW to wear your mask

Mall jewelry store
jewelry store

 

2/27/21, Saturday

This may end my diary. I got my first Pfizer shot about 2 hours ago so I'll explain how that went.  I'll probably talk about my 2nd shot which will be March 20 but then I'll close this.  There is not much history from the 1918 pandemic and I wanted future pandemic-laden generations to at least have a glimpse of what this one was like.  Hopefully many other people are writing diaries too.

Yesterday Monument Health called me to say I could get my vaccine on Saturday.  I just needed to bring ID and a mask to the old Herberger's (long closed) at the mall at 9:45am.  So I got there about 10 minutes early.  "Mask required" signs were on the doors.  There was a table of maybe 4 people checking people in.  I was asked my name and birth date but never asked for my ID for some reason.  I answered a few questions and gave verbal consent to being vaccinated.  Then I waited with about 20 other people for maybe 10 minutes before a nurse came over and called my name.  There was a steady stream of mostly older people coming and going.  There were curtained booths for privacy.  The nurse asked me a few questions like if I'd had any vaccine in the past 2 weeks for anything (no) and do I feel healthy (yse).  Again, she never asked for ID but just relied on my birth date matching my name.  She asked which arm I wanted the vaccine in, and I chose the right, since I'm left-handed.  I barely felt the jab.  Then I was to wait for about 15 minutes in another area in case I had a bad reaction.  I left after about 12 minutes since I felt fine and have never had a bad reaction to anything before.

The process was simple. The jab didn't really hurt.  And so far I have no physical reaction at all, not even a sore arm.

Monument Health vaccine location
the old Herberger's turned into a vaccine center

3/2/21

I had no bad reaction to the vaccine, just a sore arm until today, which I think is normal for getting stabbed in the arm with a needle. People seem to be excited about getting vaccinated, but unfortunately it's just for those 65 and up in this state right now.

I think the use of masks is going down a bit.  I went to my tax preparer and I was the only person there wearing a mask.  Tonight I went to Safeway and about 1/2 the people had no masks.  I ate at On the Border for the first time in a long time and the guy who showed me my booth was not wearing a mask.  I could see that the cooks were not either.  The Covid-19 stats had been going down but seem to be leveling off again now.  I sure hope they don't go back up.

I've started to think about taking my trip in May, since I will have been vaccinated and I think the virus will be subsiding by then.  But it's just a thought at the moment.

sign on nursing school picnic table
sign on nursing school picnic table

federal building with sign
entrance to federal building

3/3/21

This seems to be the weeks many people decided to stop wearing a mask.  Places I've gone where the workers always wore masks now are not.  More public are going without masks. I don't really know why but I figure it's because people thinks it's starting to get safe now, since we have a vaccine and the stats have been going down. The governor of Texas just abandoned all methods for stopping the spread.  This could suddenly get worse, which would be so unfortunate.

3/4/21

So I'll keep going until after my 2nd shot.

Today was more evidence of people giving up on masks. I ate at Marco's Pizza and nobody there had a mask.  I went to a pharmacy and the employees had masks, but the lady at the counter took away her mask to ask me a question.  This is not how masks work.  Something happened this weekend or around there that was a green light for people to stop wearing masks.  I wish I knew what it was. 

3/19/21

I had my first shot on February 20 at the old Herberger's at the mall. Everything was very efficient, though they never asked me for ID, just using my date of birth as proof? Don't know. After the shot we were supposed to wait for 15 minutes before leaving in case we had a reaction. There was an option to use an online checkin which I did. Every day for the first week my phone got a message for me to check in and basically just say if I had any of the listed symptoms, which I didn't. One night I woke up with a nose bleed, but who knows what that was.

Tomorrow I get my second shot. Meanwhile, today I was in Deadwood, which was surprisingly busy. This might be because of Spring Break, and a lot of people there were college-age. I at at the Midnight Star restaurant upstairs and was seated at the window, so I could see people on Main Street walking by. My guess is about 3% of the people I saw all day there wore masks. Even the restaurant workers were not wearing masks. The only people I saw consistently masked were casino workers.


3/21/21 Sunday

I got my 2nd shot yesterday morning. Again, they were very efficient and I waited maybe 4 minutes before the nurse called my name. Again, I waited about 10 minutes before leaving in case of any bad reaction. The nurse told me I might start to feel a little sick in about 10 hours, but that never happened. The only reaction has been a sore arm that's slightly worse than last time.

I still get notices from the app to check in and answer if I've had any bad reactions yet. So far so good. So in 2 weeks I should be mostly immune to Covid-19. A nice feeling!

I went to a movie at AMC today for the first time in probably 18 months. There were only 5 of us total in the theater. I bought popcorn and pop so had my mask off while I was eating.

My BIGGEST cringy thing is STILL seeing people wearing a mask, but not over their nose as well. I can think of no excuse for this, yet I see it every day. 

3/23/21

Still no reaction from the 2nd vaccine yet.  My arm is just slightly sore still.

I actually have 2 pet peeves; people who wear a mask but not over their nose, and stores that have signs saying "masks required" but not enforcing that.  I saw both things at Office Depot yesterday.

Our new president sets high goals for fighting the virus and meets them.  Our previous president said let the states handle it and went golfing.

3/28/21, Sunday

Yesterday I talked to a friend who had the Moderna vaccine.  He said the first jab really wiped him out.  He felt terrible and had a fever.  He even called the doctor, but in the end rode it out. He felt sick after the 2nd jab too, but not as bad.

I had no noticable reaction.  After the first one I felt a little bad, but it's exactly how I feel when I'm dehydrated.  So I drank some water and felt better pretty quickly.  I don't attribute that to the vaccine then.  The 2nd jab I had no problems.

3/30/21 Tuesday

My brother told me he got sick from both shots (Pfizer).  Most people I know either had very few symptoms or got really sick.

I'm planning a vacation in May so I'll keep this going until after that, so I can report on how I see things in other states, and how travelers have to deal with the virus.

Right now the pandemic has gone down and leveled off instead of just continuing to go down. This despite the vaccines and the higher number of people who already had Covid-19.  This to me is the natural reaction of people who are tired of the whole thing just letting their guard down, wearing masks less, going out more, etc.  I think this is just human nature and cannot be worked around very well.

 

4/6/21 Tuesday

I drove the bus Saturday.  Everybody is still required to wear a mask, and I had to give one to two people.  There are new more direct signs about the requirement both on the office window and on the bus door.

Rapid Ride Covid bus sign
Rapid Ride bus entrance sign

I was just at Lowe's and maybe 1/2 the people there had masks on.  I think all the crew were masked except a guy behind plexiglass.  BUT people were pretty much social distancing, for instance in line to check out.  At Penney's most people were masked, if not all (I wasn't paying much attention there).

JC Penney Covid signs
JC Penney entrance

Yesterday I ate at Barbacoa's in Spearfish. About 1/2 of the workers were masked.

It's definitely a strange time right now, though. People are quickly getting vaccinated, and the stats in general have been going down.  So I can see why people would start to think of getting lax about the rules.

I see lots of help wanted signs again.  Wendy's says $12/hour to start, and Best Buy is $15/hour. 

 

4/9/21

I ate about 3pm at Pizza Ranch assuming there wouldn't be many people there, but it was kind of busy.  NO ONE but the table guy and me had a mask on.  The counter guy had a chin mask.  I then went to Target, which still has free masks and hand sanitzer at the entrance, and maybe 95% of the people there had masks.  I think social distancing is observed, in general, more than mask wearing.

 

4/17/21

Here are some of the reactions to vaccines that I've heard.  Yesterday I overheard some people talking about this.  One said she slept for 17 hours after the first shot.  Another responded that someone he knew slept about 14 hours.  My brother said he got a 101.5 degree fever, but then was ok.  Most things I've heard are powerful reactions of some type that go away quickly, or almost no reaction like me.

The Financial Times put up a paywall on their Covid graphs, so I'm looking for another place with a similar service.

* * * * * *

South Dakota legal code on pandemics

34-22-5. Exposure of self or others to communicable disease as misdemeanor.

Each person who intentionally exposes himself or herself or another person infected with any communicable disease in any public place, except in the person's necessary removal from a public place in a manner not dangerous to the public health, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

34-22-41. "Public health emergency" defined.

For the purposes of §§ 34-3-26, 34-16-22 to 34-16-25, inclusive, and 34-22-41 to 34-22-44, inclusive, a public health emergency is an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness, health condition, or widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk of substantial harm to the affected population

34-22-14. Enforcement of regulations for control of communicable diseases.

The department has the authority to provide for the enforcement of regulations for the control and eradication of communicable diseases through isolation, prevention, and treatment.

 

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