COVID-19 Pandemic Response

We are ensuring ‘We the People’ means all of us

As all levels of government respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ACLU of South Dakota is working to ensure the burdens of the outbreak and the government’s actions do not unfairly fall on our most vulnerable communities. We are monitoring the government’s responses to ensure they are rooted in science and public health needs, not based on stigma or bias, and no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.

The spread of COVID-19 is a crisis, and it will take many of us working together to respond appropriately, effectively, and fairly. The ACLU of South Dakota will be monitoring the situation to ensure a response that is ​scientifically justified and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary. In particular, we will provide guidance to our elected officials on crafting a response that protects the populations most vulnerable to harm, including working people, immigrants, and those involved in the criminal legal system.

Here you will find information about the ACLU’s response to COVID-19, including news updates, blog posts, guidelines, and letters to public officials—as well as other resources. Above all, the ACLU of South Dakota believes:

  • Any coronavirus response should be grounded in science and public health, and not be politicized
  • Any response plan must protect the health, safety, and civil liberties of all
  • State leaders should encourage voluntary compliance with self-isolation measures as much as possible
  • If leaders want to be effective in limiting the transmission of coronavirus, they will need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society

Incarcerated people

People in jail are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. State and local law enforcement including the attorney general, district attorneys, and local police should reduce the number of people in state custody in order to prevent the virus from entering a prison or jail.


Nobody should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. In addition, ICE should halt immigration detentions to limit the spread of the virus in jails and detentions centers and to limit the hardships that the virus causes for immigrant communities.

Working people

In order to encourage all people to cooperate with health officials and public health guidelines, government and employers must ensure that people are protected from job loss and economic hardship. Government and employers must provide social and economic protection including strong paid family and medical leave policies and income support.

2020 Elections

The South Dakota Secretary of state issued a press release on April 10 stating that the Secretary of State's office will distribute absentee ballot applications to all South Dakota registered voters. For more information, visit the SDSOS website on elections. 

You can also call the Election Protection Hotline: (866) 687-8683. 

How You Can Help Today 

  • Help share our advocacy efforts on social media. You can find us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram
  • Share our rights guides: Know Your Rights: Interacting with Law Enforcement 
  • Sign up for our mailing list to receive alerts about the work we're doing on COVID-19 and other issues.
  • Sign up to volunteer to learn about more opportunities to get involved
  • Donate to ensure we can continue to respond flexibly to this crisis

Other Resources

This page will continue to provide updates on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting civil rights and civil liberties in South Dakota. We will also be sharing relevant community and statewide news and resources here as well as our social media channels, links listed below.

If you think you may have symptoms of COVID-19 or have questions about being tested, contact your general healthcare provider to ask about testing. If you do not have a general healthcare provider, contact the South Dakota Department of Public Health at 1-800-738-2301. 

Don't forget to wash your hands properly  

Handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid infection from the new coronavirus, but most people aren’t very good at it. Here’s expert guidance on how to do it right.

1. Community Resources and Organizations

A.Community Resources and Organizations


Get informed

Get help

Give back

2. Advocacy on COVID-19

A.Advocacy on COVID-19


The ACLU of South Dakota issued a letter on March 18, 2020 to Gov. Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Department of Corrections about the need to make sure officials are doing everything they can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in South Dakota’s correctional facilities. We have yet to hear a response. 

The ACLU of South Dakota issued a letter on April 3, 2020 to Commander Rob Yantis and the Pennington County Jail regarding unsanitary conditions and the lack of preventative measures in the Pennington County Jail during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have yet to hear back. 

The ACLU of South Dakota issued a letter on April 3, 2020 to the Honorable Mark Vargo, Pennington County State's Attorney, regarding unsanitary conditions and the lack of preventative measures in the Pennington County Jail during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have yet to hear back. 

3. Actions you can take

A.Actions you can take


Advocate at home

Wash your hands 

Keep phsyically active