COPD and COVID-19: A Report from a Rural Community

Posted on May 07, 2020   |   

This article was written by Kandy Blankartz, a COPD Foundation State Captain for the State of South Dakota. She wanted to share with the community about how COVID-19 has impacted her small town in rural South Dakota.

Hi, I am Kandy Blankartz, State Captain of South Dakota. I wanted to give you a little glimpse of how things are going here since I do live in a rural area of North Central SD. The town I live in is very small with a population of 3,465 people and am about 100 miles away from the nearest big city.

This COVID virus outbreak is very scary for us all but with those of us with underlining conditions such as lung disease, heart problems, diabetes, and cancer make it very hard to deal with. We have to take all the precautions and more for us to prevent this virus. I keep up on the news about this COVID virus for South Dakota every day especially for my county. We had 5 cases all in one family here in town. We all know them well. They have recovered -every one of them. So far, no other outbreak in this county, which is Walworth County. There are 2 close counties with no virus and one county which has 1 case reported and they have recovered. Hope we can keep it this way. It is a big worry for all of us in this rural community.

Life here has really changed. The officials here have closed inside dining places and restaurants only have drive-up. There was no prom for the high school. There still trying to figure out how to have graduation in May. The school kids are all doing schoolwork at home via the schoolteachers. This is really putting a strain on all of the parents and teachers. My daughter had to video chat a niece to help her with schoolwork. The grocery stores and dollar stores are open, but tape is placed on floor to keep everyone 6 ft apart. We have social distancing here with keeping 6 ft apart, and only 10 in a crowd, but I see no one in crowds. Now more people are wearing masks in public. My daughter is attempting to make some for family members. For me it’s very hard to wear a mask and breathe.

I think our medical clinic here is prepared and ready as best they can for this. I am worried the most about a big pandemic here. I think we only have a 25-bed hospital. You are to call before coming if you think you have the COVID virus. They come out and test you at your car. We got the new rapid testing machine from the state this last week.

I have several injections that I need each month so when I do go to the clinic, I am given a mask and they take my temp before entering. My nurse always takes me to a (Clean) room she calls it. When I need meds at the pharmacy, I call in and then when they are ready, I drive up and they come out to my car to me. Some of my meds I get 90 days’ worth. I worry about the next time I call in for the nebulizer meds that they may not be there due to the shortage.

Another good thing is that we do have telehealth here. It has been here for a while. I have most of my specialty doctors in Bismarck, ND and I use the "mychart" system to send information up to them. There is a video chat on there if it needs to be used. I was scheduled for some tests and appointments with my pulmonologist on April 21st, but I canceled due to this COVID virus. Now, I am planning on August (I hope) for my appointments.

I miss my pulmonary rehab a lot. When this outbreak first started, I was told to stay home. Then the next week they closed the pulmonary rehab altogether. I do have a treadmill here very old and clunky, but I been trying to do some every day I get to 20 min at best. At rehab I can do 50 min both treadmill and NuStep. This treadmill not as nice as at rehab. I have floor cycle I try to do also and some weights. I do find myself procrastinating about exercise here. I’ve been wanting to go walking but every day it’s so windy I can't get out. And on top of that, the pollen is high here, too.

I think living in a rural community has a lot of good aspects. We are away from big cities (at least) 100 miles thus not having all the driving and anxiety you would in a big city. We have cleaner air here, no factories which may help keep the COVID pandemic down. We have the Missouri River here for fishing and boating. Our cost of living here is a lot lower than bigger places. Our worries now are people coming here from out of state if they open the campgrounds and come for the fishing. Being rural we have less people coming here now to visit also and hopefully none are going out of here to catch the virus. With not many stores here a lot of people in town would go elsewhere for shopping. Now its online shopping.

For me some days are better than others. I get very discouraged about this new way of life sometimes. I see no light at the end of the tunnel that this is going away at all. I do stay in communication with family and I talk to my daughters or message them for different things. I am in apartment house with 7 apartments. So I may run into someone some days. I very much enjoy sitting outside if it’s nice or just going for a drive.

Yes, I love my rural community!! We all know each other and help each other here. Very caring people live in rural areas.

Kandy Blankartz
Mobridge, SD
Captain of SD for Advocacy for the COPD Foundation


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  • I really appreciated you sharing your perspective, Kandy. We live in very different locations but are having some of the same experiences for sure. I hope you can enjoy the sun on your face this spring and that we see relief sooner rather than later.
    • Thank you Kristen. I went to the grocery store today for first time since Feb and only one other person was wearing a mask. We still do not have any cases here as of May 8th. I hope it stays that way but now they are opening bars and cafes so this makes me very worried. I hear ppl are coming here from out of town fishing. My son and family did go to the campground last weekend its open but no bathrooms. The boating has started also.
  • Thank you for this blog post, Kandy.

    No matter where we are based, its good to have a better idea of what's going on in the rural areas. You told us something about what's happening in your town, physically, but moreover about the concerns and emotions that are affecting you. I'm sure there are many other people in other places feeling the same way!
  • Thank you for sharing your story, Kandy. I live in a big city and our experiences during this time are similar in many ways. I also miss pulmonary rehab so much. Doing exercises at home are not the same but they help us. You Tube has some excellent COPD exercise videos developed by the Foundation. I find the disposable masks work the best for me. We have to hang in there! We will get through this together.