Doctors ask Rapid City leaders to institute COVID-19 restrictions

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA/KEVN TV) - Rapid City area physicians sent an open letter to Rapid City leaders, expressing what they consider “serious concern” regarding the expanding COVID-19 pandemic in the region and community.

Signs on the doors of Black Hills Pediatrics during COVID-19 outbreak

The letter asks Mayor Steve Allender and the city council to implement several measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are not immune from this pandemic although we are positioned to isolate and suppress the virus. We have much to learn from what’s occurred throughout the world and region; time is of the essence. We are urging our government and public officials to act to make some of the challenging decisions that will be required in the coming hours to protect the public. ,” Dr. Luke Mortimer stated in a release. Mortimer is president of Black Hills Orthopedics and Spine Center; and vice chair of Black Hills Surgical Hospital.

The measures requested include implementing:

• Self-isolation at home except for essential needs; practicing social distancing
• Stop non-essential travel (airline and public transportation)
• Close non-essential businesses (limit restaurants and other food venues to takeout; close bars, salons, retail stores, clubs, gyms, schools, daycare, social venues and churches)
• Conserve medical supplies
• Limit non-essential healthcare operations

“The balance of those concerns is greatly outweighed by the health and safety risk facing our community and our responsibility to those most vulnerable among us,” the open letter stated. “Now is the time to take further action. You must not hesitate; we need decisive action now.”

The letter was signed by Mortimer, as well as the following doctors:

• Stephen Miller, president of Rapid City Emergency Medical Services (ER doctors)
• Andrea Baier, chief of medical staff, Monument Health
• Lew Papendick, chair of Black Hills Surgical Hospital
• Margaret Kuehler, managing partner of Black Hills Pediatrics
• Rebecca Linquist, president of Rapid City Medical Center
• Rob Schleiffarth, president of West River ENT
• Stuart Rice, president of Black Hills Neurosurgery and Spine

Dr. Greg Anderson from Black Hills Pediatrics says because of our relative isolation here, we have an opportunity to keep ourselves from getting to a degree like New York City and California didn't -- but only if we act soon.

"We don't have any treatment. We don't have any vaccines. So once it's here and you catch it, all we can do is supportive care. There's nothing we can do to make you better. So the only way we can keep you from getting sick or dying is to prevent people from getting it. And the way to do that is through isolation, quarantine, and avoiding people who have it," says Dr. Greg Anderson of Black Hills Pediatrics.

Dr. Anderson says if we could do universal testing, it would make things easier, and we could just quarantine those who have it.
However, there's not enough tests available to do that.