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Sioux Falls Mayor and Health Leaders Implore Public to Slow COVID's Spread

Jackie Hendry

COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization rates in the Sioux Falls area are continuing to rise. Representatives from Sanford and Avera say they need the public’s help to keep them from being overwhelmed.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken maintains his office will not pursue a mask mandate, but he says the need to slow the spread stretches beyond city limits.

Mayor TenHaken has strong words on the issue of masks:

“Wear a dang mask when you’re indoors. We’re not asking you to sign up for the draft here. We’re asking you to wear a mask when you’re inside and you can’t distance.”

TenHaken says people need to reverse the current trend. As of Monday, the Sioux Falls area had more than 2,000 active cases and 140 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Dr. David Basel is Vice President of Clinical Quality with Avera Medical Group. He says the system is adding ICU beds and care providers are working overtime, but the rest is up to the community.

If someone is a close contact of a COVID-19 case, Dr. Basel says they should quarantine for the full fourteen days to ensure symptoms don’t appear.

“We can give you a test, but just because that test is negative doesn’t mean you’re not gonna turn positive later on," he explains, "and you can start infecting people days before you ever turn symptomatic.”

Dr. Basel says even people with mild symptoms should still isolate to avoid spreading any illness right now.

Dr. Mike Wilde is Chief Medical Officer with Sanford Health. He says hospitals are also dealing with an influx of non-COVID patients.  

"Care needs that perhaps were deferred earlier in the year and now are being addressed and may take a little more complexity to get addressed at this time,” he says.

Hospitals are stretched thin, but Mayor TenHaken says his office will not pursue a mask mandate.  He says a city mandate won’t impact surrounding communities that rely on Sioux Falls hospitals.

“So if you wanna live in a state that gives you freedoms, that comes with an expectation of responsibility," he says. "And I need this region to do more.”

The city is continuing a media campaign encouraging masks and other COVID-19 prevention measures.