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State Hospital Systems and Others Partner for Pro-Mask Campaign

The state’s three major health systems and more than two dozen other organizations are partnering to promote masks as a prevention measure against COVID-19.

The phrase "Mask Up SoDak" is unveiled as South Dakota sets a record for COVID hospitalizations.

Dr. Benjamin Aaker is the president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. He speaks on behalf of 37 organizations supporting the #MaskUpSoDak campaign to renew public dedication to COVID-19 prevention measures. That list of organizations includes the Sanford, Avera, and Monument Health systems, the South Dakota Municipal League, the School Administrators of South Dakota and the state Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

In March and April, the South Dakota State Medical Association urged Governor Kristi Noem to close non-essential businesses and issue a shelter-in-place order. In July, the organization advised all public schools to require face masks in the new school year. None of those requests came to fruition.

Dr. Aaker explains this movement stops short of requesting government intervention.

“We are not here asking for a governmental mask mandate. We appreciate the governor’s call to action for personal responsibility in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. This group supports keeping South Dakota open, and the safest way to do that is to practice good hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing masks.”

Dr. Aaker did not address questions about how the Governor’s frequent appearances without a mask might impact this campaign.

Dr. Aaker adds this movement is part of an ongoing effort from the state’s healthcare professionals.

“We’ve been saying we need to mask up, we need to do handwashing, we need to have the social distancing, and if you’re sick stay home. We’ve been saying that and saying that and we’ve been trying to get it out to the public as much as possible," he says. "And this is a great avenue, to be able to have this press conference, to do this, to get the message out to the public. And we hope they’ll take that message to heart.”

The campaign hashtag announcement comes as the state sees a record 395 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday.  Dr. Aaker says some local hospitals are instituting surge procedures, but those plans have limits. He says this campaign calls on the public to protect healthcare resources and avoid overwhelming health workers.

Organizations Supporting #MaskUpSoDak

•AARP South Dakota
•American Cancer Society
•American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
•Associated School Boards of South Dakota
•Avera Health
•Black Hills District Medical Society
•Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas (CHAD) 
•District 7 Medical Society (Sioux falls & surrounding communities)
•Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board
•Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce
•Humphreys Forum: A Collaboration of Sioux Falls Infectious Disease Physicians
•Huron District Medical Society
•Immunize South Dakota
•Mitchell District Medical Society
•Monument Health
•Pierre District Medical Society
•Sanford Health
•School Administrators of South Dakota
•South Dakota Academy of Family Physicians
•South Dakota Academy of Ophthalmology
•South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations
•South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry
•South Dakota Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
•South Dakota Chapter, American College of Emergency Physicians
•South Dakota Chapter, American College of Physicians
•South Dakota Chapter, American College of Surgeons
•South Dakota Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 
•South Dakota Municipal League 
•South Dakota Nurses Association
•South Dakota Pathology Society
•South Dakota Pharmacy Association
•South Dakota Psychiatric Association
•South Dakota Public Health Association
•South Dakota Section, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
•South Dakota Society of Anesthesiologists
•South Dakota State Medical Association
•Yankton District Medical Society