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Noem Questions Mask Studies Despite CDC Recommendation

State of South Dakota

Governor Kristi Noem says the state will follow Centers for Disease Control guidance on policy decision surrounding COVID-19.

The CDC recommends people wear cloth face covering in public settings when around people outside their household, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Noem, however, says the science is mixed on their ability to slow the spread of the disease.

The CDC says cloth masks play an important role in preventing respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and spreading the virus. Clinical and laboratory studies that shows cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.

At the fireworks show at Mt. Rushmore last weekend, no social distancing measures were put in place, nor mask mandate. Free masks were offered.

When speaking to a Minnesota conservative think tank, Center of the American Experiment, Noem says people should wear them if they’re comfortable wearing them. She says she does wear a mask if it’s required, but questions their efficacy.

“There’s not good science using them or not using them,” Noem says. “In fact, some of the studies people point to most often—some of them were promoted that were not even reliable data sets they were using. That’s concerning to me.  They also talk a bout the value of wearing a mask, especially if you’re asymptomatic. We also know, studying this virus, asymptomatic people rarely spread the virus.”

But, the CDC says recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms, and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. Pictures from last week show Noem hugging Kimberly Guilfoyle, who tested positive for COVID-19 a day later.

An April study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information finds that community mask use by well people could be beneficial, particularly for COVID-19, where transmission may be pre-symptomatic.

Dr. Drew Harris is a population health consultant from Philadelphia. He says South Dakota is fortunate the number of cases has been relatively low.

“You have to remember, this virus is a random event,” Harris says. “You could drive home intoxicated, without your seat belt, and say, ‘See, nothing happened to me.’ But, on the otherhand, somebody who is totally sober could be driving with their seat belt and have a horrible accident as a result.”

Harris says science should guide state decision making, not political grandstanding.