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COVID-19 Response

As the University community returns to campus and continues operations, it is expected that the number of positive cases of COVID-19 will increase or change. Cases in Brookings County and University locations are reported daily on the South Dakota Department of Health website, which is linked via the SDSU COVID-19 response page.

Student, employee and patient confidentiality laws prohibit the University from disclosing the identities of individuals. The SD DOH statistics rely on information obtained by the DOH, the SDSU Student Health Clinic and Counseling Services, and other medical providers. There may be instances when the University does not know about new positive cases on campus or cases related to the University but are off campus, and/or if individuals on campus do not disclose to the University or health authorities that they have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, individuals who test positive may or may not have come in close contact with individuals on University premises or programs.

If students, parents, faculty, staff or community members have questions related to the University’s response to COVID-19, they may reach out via email and a COVID-19 Response Team member or designee will respond as soon as possible.  

For a current count of cases in South Dakota, visit the South Dakota Department of Health.


The JacksRBack task force is responsible for developing and planning SDSU’s return to on-campus operations for the fall 2020 semester. Visit the JacksRBack website for policies, guidelines, plans, communications and other important information regarding our return to campus this fall.


Read about how SDSU students, faculty and alums are making a difference during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

COVID-19 Community Dashboard

As the impact of the coronavirus continues to unfold, the Brookings Economic Development Corporation has developed a website to update and inform of changes to economic indicators specific to the Brookings area.

COVID-19 Insights from SDSU Research

Why Do Some COVID-19 Patients Infect Many Others Whereas Most Don’t Spread The Virus At All?

By Dr. Natalie Thiex, Assistant Professor in the SDSU Department of Biology and Microbiology

This interesting and newsy article from “Science” is a quick read and delves into the characteristics and behaviors of people who spread COVID-19 to many people (AKA, superspreaders) compared to those who don’t spread it to anybody. The data so far suggests that about 10% of COVID-19 cases lead to 80% of its spread, but the majority of people who are infected don’t spread it to anybody else. Studying and understanding these dynamics will help us hone our social distancing guidelines to shut down superspreading events while easing restrictions on other events less prone to spreading virus. The data, so far, suggests that outdoor activities are much safer than indoor activities, and that shouting and singing increase release of virus particles from an infected person’s mouth.

Read the article

COVID-19: What Is Contact Tracing and Why It Is Important (Week of May 18)

By Bonny Specker, Ph.D., Epidemiologist and Director of the Ethel Austin Martin Program at SDSU

COVID-19 spreads quickly and is more fatal than the flu. It is estimated that every person who develops COVID-19 will spread the disease to two or three additional people if there are no controls in place to limit its spread. Symptoms for COVID-19 can appear up to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People who have been infected, but do not yet have symptoms, can be infectious for several days before symptoms appear. Therefore, it is important to identify people who are infected in order to isolate them and also to identify people who may be infected and make sure they self-quarantine. Both isolation of cases and quarantining of individuals who have been exposed should limit the spread of the disease.

One way to identify individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 is to talk to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have them retrace where they have been and with whom they have had close contact (within 6 feet of someone for more than five minutes at a time) for three days before symptoms developed until they were diagnosed with COVID-19. The close contacts are then notified of their potential exposure, referred for testing, asked to monitor for symptoms and to self-quarantine for 14 days from when they were in contact with the case. If an individual who is infected is quarantined, they will not be able to spread the disease to others, thereby stopping the spread of the disease. 

Links for additional information:

Antibodies in the fight against COVID-19 (Week of May 11)

by Adam Hoppe, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, SDSU

Antibodies are likely the most powerful molecule in the fight against COVID-19. Given their complexity, as highlighted in this article from STAT, it will take time to hone therapeutic and diagnostic antibody technologies as well as develop vaccines that provide lasting antibody-dependent immunity.

Antibodies are molecules made by our immune system that stick to viruses and infected cells promoting their destruction. Having high levels of antibodies in your blood is the most important predictor of immunity against most viruses. In the case of measles, the MMR vaccine produces immunity by driving the production of antibodies that bind and neutralize the measles virus.

A vaccinated person will produce these antibodies and have immunity throughout their life. Although not all vaccines can obtain this level of protection, the hope is that newly developed COVID-19 vaccines will provide widespread immunity, protect at-risk individuals and bring an end to the pandemic. In addition, early studies demonstrated that nearly everyone who recovers from COVID-19 develops antibodies against the virus1. Those antibodies should provide immunity against reinfection for a period of time and they may be used as therapeutics or prophylactics.

But how will we know if they protect and how long will protection last? Diagnostic testing for antibody levels are coming online that will provide the first glimpse of who has antibodies against COVID-19 and potential immunity. Following recovered individuals over time will be important for understanding the degree of protection.

Additionally, clinical trials are underway that collect antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients and transfer them into sick individuals as a way to curb the disease (convalescent plasma therapy). In addition to improving patient outcomes, these trials will provide key insight into the effectiveness of antibodies in preventing and treating COVID-19. These findings will be important benchmarks for defining the efficacy of new vaccines. Lastly, a variety of therapeutic antibody technologies that do not need to be harvested from recovered patients, including those under development by SAb Biotherapeutics, a South Dakota-based biotechnology company, are being developed to fight COVID-192. The more we learn about the antibody response, the faster effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines will be produced.

Read more about current research and testing:

Recent New England Journal of Medicine Article Explains Spread of SARS-CoVa-2 (Week of April 27) 

Bonny Specker, epidemiologist and director of the Ethel Austin Martin Program at SDSU, has provided valuable insight about COVID-19 for the campus community from the early stages of the pandemic. She summarizes a recent New England Journal of Medicine article to provide details about characteristics related to spread of the virus.

Specker says as of April 24, Iceland has done more tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, per population size than any other country, including the U.S. (132,709 vs. 13,845/1 million, respectively). A paper published by Icelandic investigators in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 14 provides insight into the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Three different Icelandic populations were tested for the virus—one group that was at high risk for infection due to recent travel to high-risk countries or contact with an infected individual, one group who volunteered for open screening, and a random sample of the population. 

Thirteen percent of the high-risk individuals tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 while close to 1% (0.6-0.9%) of the general population that was screened also tested positive. Almost half the general population that was screened and found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2 did not have any symptoms.

Specker notes these results show how hard it will be to stop the spread of this disease, since it is possible individuals are spreading the virus without even knowing they have it. Over the one-month study period, the Icelandic population was able to maintain a stable infection rate, which is likely due to the country’s’ rapid response to the outbreak and very aggressive approach to testing and tracking those individuals who may have been exposed. The paper also provides interesting sequencing data for those readers interested in the genetics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Watch Dr. Specker’s recent video to learn more about COVID-19.

Why Do COVID Projections Keep Changing? (Week of April 20)

By Bonny Specker

Mathematical models* estimating the numbers of infected individuals, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator requirements are important for projecting peak COVID-19 occurrence and medical needs.  Adequate medical resources (beds, ventilators, medical staff) will reduce deaths due to COVID-19. Many of the projections from these models have recently changed to indicate that fewer resources may be needed and have led some people to question whether COVID-19 is really as bad as projected.

There are several reasons why these estimates are changing. First, knowledge about some of the variables that go into these models is improving. For example, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 14 reported that almost 50% of the Icelandic population testing positive for COVID-19 had no symptoms, indicating that the number of infected people is significantly greater than the number diagnosed. The number of infected people is an important component of the models and the Icelandic report illustrates the need to know the numbers infected rather than the numbers with COVID-19 due to testing of people with more severe disease. 

Second, if interventions aimed at reducing spread of COVID-19 are working, such as increased social distancing, then the number of infections will go down and the transmission of the disease will be reduced.  Decreases in South Dakota estimates based on these models suggest that social distancing is working.  The recent outbreak in Sioux Falls is an example of how quickly things can change and how important preventive measures are.  Keep up the social distancing – it works.

* The two main models being used are CHIME (Univ Pennsylvania) and IHME (Univ Washington).

What Does the Future Hold for COVID-19 Transmission? (Week of April 13)

By Natalie Thiex, assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Microbiology

What comes next? How long will this last?

Those are the questions on everybody’s mind. While seeking answers to those questions, Thiex referred to a recent article in Science Magazine.

The paper uses mathematical models, previous data on endemic coronaviruses and a series of predictions on duration of immunity and seasonality of transmission to predict a range of possibilities from best-case scenario to worst-case scenario for the future of COVID-19 in the USA.

Figures 5 and 6 in the article show the effects of social distancing and resurgence of cases following lifting of social distancing measures. The models predict that a single social distancing effort, regardless of length, won’t succeed in keeping case numbers below the hospital critical care capacity. Furthermore, the models show it is necessary to have intermittent social distancing, possibly for several years, to keep the cases at a level that hospitals can manage. 

Duration of immunity is unknown for COVID-19 and a huge variable in these models. The authors point out that long-term seroprevalence studies are necessary to establish how long people are immune to this virus following infection. It is important to note that new treatments or a vaccine could drastically change these scenarios.

Important Information

The following section will be used to communicate important information on a daily basis pertaining to COVID-19. Please continue to check this area of the website on a regular basis.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

Posted Dec. 17, 2020

Campus Community –

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine is encouraging news as we eventually look to turn the corner on this pandemic. We are still, as you most likely know, in the very early stages of the vaccine distribution.

We must remain vigilant in our approach to the pandemic and follow the guidance and policies of wearing our masks, social distancing, washing our hands, monitoring for symptoms and staying home when we are sick.

There will be a great deal of information coming out pertaining to the vaccine in next several weeks and months. We have established a link on the JacksRBack website where information will be posted as it is released.

We appreciate your attention to this encouraging news and continue efforts to manage the pandemic. We certainly have more work to do, but there will be a horizon to this pandemic in the coming months.

Spring 2021 Semester to Proceed as Planned

The South Dakota Board of Regents agreed to maintain a spring semester calendar of 77 class days for the six public universities, with the academic term beginning Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, and concluding Friday, May 7, 2021.

Read the full spring 2021 semester calendar release
View the 2020-2021 Academic Calendar

Regents Adopt Tiered Approach to Face Covering Protocols

The South Dakota Board of Regents has adopted a tiered approach to face covering requirements for its six public universities when the fall academic term begins August 19.

Wednesday’s action creates a framework under which the board and its universities are positioned to react quickly to adjust campus operations whenever necessary. Brian Maher, the regents’ executive director and CEO, characterized it as “responding in a practical way to the changing COVID-19 landscape at campuses and within their respective communities.”

To begin fall semester operations on the campuses, the regents agreed to require face coverings in all public indoor spaces on campus (Level 3). This action will be reviewed 30 days after the start of the fall academic term.
The board’s protocol, which applies to all students, staff, faculty and campus visitors, provides for four differentiated levels of response: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4.

Read the Regents Adopt Tiered Approach to Face Covering Protocols release.

Read the SDBOR COVID-19 Face Covering Protocol document.

2020 Fall Semester

South Dakota State University will resume on-campus operations for the fall 2020 semester to provide opportunities for teaching, learning and cocurricular activities, as announced May 1 by the South Dakota Board of Regents. Planning for a safe return will include a focus on academics, student life, research, employees, athletics and the Brookings community. Fall semester classes are scheduled to begin August 19.

The decision was made following discussions among regents’ staff, university presidents and the special school superintendents following recommendations from public health officials and state leadership.

Earlier this week, President Barry Dunn launched the “JacksRBack” planning and execution team to look at all options and methods that may be needed during the return to campus, including classroom teaching, residential life, food service, tutoring, wellness, employee accommodations and others.

Read President Dunn's message to campus.

FY21 Budget Message to Campus

SDSU Staffing Plan (June 1, 2020)

In response to Gov. Kristi Noem’s “Back to Normal” plan unveiled April 28, 2020, state entities in South Dakota will be transitioning to reopen their respective offices in the coming weeks under a new normal. As has been communicated previously, COVID-19 related administrative leave ends May 31.

On May 1, the South Dakota Board of Regents and South Dakota State University President Barry Dunn announced the university is committed to resuming appropriate on-campus operations that will include face-to-face instruction during the fall 2020 academic semester in a manner consistent with guidance issued from the South Dakota Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We recognize this new normal will look different and the phased transition requires a process that provides both employees and our community with confidence that safety and wellness are addressed. We are asking supervisors take incremental steps in this process and evaluate all areas of office structure and effectiveness, including office setup with employees returning to campus. The phased transition does not mean all employees return to working on campus June 1. 

The priorities for this phased planning are to:

  • Appropriately restart any services that may have not been provided since mid-March 2020;
  • Appropriately restore operations that may have been limited; and
  • Allow for productivity and satisfactory performance of designated job duties by employees, all aligned with the health and safety guidelines provided by the South Dakota Department of Health and the CDC, and operationalized by SDSU.

In light of the governor’s plan, SDSU will begin a phased return to a new normal starting June 1. This move keeps with the Board of Regents’ commitment to on-campus operations in the fall. SDSU leadership is developing comprehensive plans to return our operations to full efficiency and productivity with on-campus instruction. Additional information is available on the JacksRBack website.

$3 million in CARES Act Emergency Grants Available to Students

South Dakota State University is providing more than $3 million to students as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The money can be used on expenses related to the disruption of campus due to COVID-19 including course materials, technology, food, housing, health care and child care.

To qualify, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Been enrolled as a degree-seeking student on March 27. Students who were enrolled less than half time may receive reduced awards;
  • Must be eligible for Title IV aid;
  • Have not been enrolled in all online courses for the 2020 spring semester, and
  • Have expenses that resulted from the disruption of campus related to COVID-19.

Eligible students will receive a link to an electronic application. Awards will be distributed up to $600 per student and it is anticipated more than 6,000 students are eligible for CARES Act funding.

Visit our CARES Act page for additional information.

Summer Term/Events Update

Per the South Dakota Board of Regents announcement on April 6, South Dakota State University will continue online-only course delivery for all university instruction through the summer academic term. Summer term classes typically begin in May and continue through early August at SDSU.

In addition, SDSU will also cancel all campus events and activities until August 15.

Canceled events include:

  • Summer sports and academic camps hosted by academic departments and intercollegiate athletics;
  • Events held in the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center;
  • Events, including weddings, held by outside groups at university-operated facilities;
  • All large-scale meetings/conferences scheduled in campus facilities by university and/or outside groups.

The event cancellation also includes university-sponsored events that occur off-campus.

SDSU Works Program

In order to redeploy our employees who are currently on paid administrative leave, SDSU is launching the SDSU Works program. SDSU Works will match our current extra capacity with our current needs across the university.

We know employees are on paid administrative leave, and at the same time, we know we have current needs for additional help. We also have both graduate students and student employees who are in need of paid working hours. In order to match our extra capacity with our current needs, Human Resources will be utilizing QuestionPro to collect data from deans, directors and department heads.

More information about the SDSU Works Program is available in the April 21 campus communications.

Other Announcements

The following section will be used to communicate additional important information pertaining to COVID-19. Please continue to check this area of the website on a regular basis.

Facilities Update

The following SDSU facilities will be closed until further notice: Wellness Center, McCrory Gardens, South Dakota Art Museum, South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, the University Bookstore in the University Student Union, SDSU Dairy Bar and Meat Lab. Events at each of these locations are canceled until August 15.

The Fishback Early Learning Center Preschool will also be closed. The kindergarten on campus is currently closed and it will continue to follow the schedule determined by the Brookings School District.

General COVID-19 Q&A

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. 

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States. But individual risk is dependent on exposure.

For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. Under current circumstances, certain people will have an increased risk of infection, for example health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19 and other close contacts of persons with COVID-19.

CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.

What is the status of South Dakota State University during this pandemic?

Starting Monday, March 23, all courses at SDSU were moved online for the remainder of the semester. For important information regarding online classes, academic advising, tutoring, peer mentoring and supplemental instruction, Briggs library, etc., visit the Online Information for Students page.

Through May 31, 2020, as directed by the South Dakota Board of Regents and in keeping with the directive of Gov. Kristi Noem’s, SDSU is requiring essential personnel, as determined by their supervisors, to report to their assigned workstations. All other business operations are to remain active insofar as they may be fulfilled by employees able to work remotely during their normal work schedule, as determined by their supervisors.

Employee/HR Information Page

Information About Employee Status

Are students getting a refund?

Refunds will be provided to students. Information about each refund is provided on the Refund Page online. All refunds will be posted to student’s accounts and will be applied to outstanding balances first.

What are the spring grading options for students?

The nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has forced students to meet the challenge of rapidly changing learning environments. South Dakota State University is committed to maximizing student equity, success, and retention during this difficult time. In response, the alternative grading option of S/U (S=Satisfactory, U=Unsatisfactory) is available for students for Spring 2020 semester. In S/U grading, students receive all applicable credit for satisfactory completion of the course but the grade does not figure in grade point average calculations. Students will have the option of keeping their traditional letter grade or selecting S/U. Please note that some majors may be excluded from the S/U option due to licensure and accreditation requirements. See the SDSU Grading Option FAQ for more information.

Are there ways to deal with any stress I might be feeling during this pandemic?

When you hear, read or watch news about an outbreak of an infectious disease, you may feel anxious and show signs of stress. These signs of stress are normal and may be more likely or pronounced for people who live in or have loved ones living in parts of the world affected by the outbreak. In the wake of an infectious disease outbreak, monitor your own physical and mental health. Know the signs of stress in yourself and your loved ones. Know how to relieve stress, and know when to get help.

Where can students find answers to their questions?

A Latest Q&A website has been created for students. The page will be updated as information becomes available. 

Who can I contact if I have questions?
The COVID-19 Response Team has set-up an email account that is monitored daily, including weeks. Please email your question to the account.
Tips to keep yourself healthy
  • Contact your medical provider if you become ill or believe you have come in contact with someone that may have the virus.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze (with a tissue or into your sleeve)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the restroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
What is SDSU's current international travel guidelines?

The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is paramount to our university. Based on the rising threats of the coronavirus, the university reserves the right, according to university policy 2:11, to suspend international travel for faculty and students planning a university-sponsored event according to travel warnings issued by the U.S. Department of State.

Based on the State Department’s travel advisory and health advisory levels, the university has suspended all SDSU-sponsored and SDSU-endorsed international travel. This suspension will remain in effect until further notice.

Questions pertaining to international travel should be directed to the Office of International Affairs at 605-688-4122.

Where can I find sources of information about Coronavirus?

Given the fluidity of the pandemic and how information is being updated as such a rapid rate, the following websites provide some of the best sources of information:

Seeking Treatment

If faculty and staff are seeking treatment for COVID-19, please call your respective medical provider.

If people seek treatment for COVID-19 at Brookings Health System’s emergency department, call 605-696-9000. If they visit one of the local clinics for COVID-19 treatment, call that clinic’s respective phone number. Visit the Brookings Health System website and click on "our locations."

Other Brookings-area health care providers include Avera and Sanford.

COVID-19 News

See All Our News
Department of Environmental Health and Safety decontamination

Department of Environmental Health and Safety decontaminates masks for campus, community

South Dakota State University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety has been decontaminating N95 masks for the university since September and Brookings Health System since mid-November.

SDSU COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 testing capacity available to test SDSU students

While current self-reported COVID-19 cases on the South Dakota State University campus are less than 100, the university has the capacity to test up to 200 students daily for COVID-19.

SDSU offers students COVID-19 drive-thru testing

South Dakota State University is offering COVID-19 drive-thru testing by appointment for SDSU students. Testing started at 1 p.m. Wednesday.