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Noem Clarifies Mask Stance, SDEA Disappointed In Her Fundraising Push

Governor Kristi Noem’s office is clarifying her stance on mask wearing among students, after a campaign email last week says she’s encouraging them return to school “without masks.”

A governor’s spokesperson calls the fundraising email “in-artfully written.” They say Noem believes if people want to wear a mask, that is their own prerogative. The spokesperson says she has—and continues—to oppose mandatory masking, but she has never discouraged wearing them.

Loren Paul is the president of the South Dakota Education Association. He says he’s disappointed the governor has politicized the wellbeing of students in the classroom.

“Our priority is the health and safety of our students,” Paul says. “The CDC, South Dakota State Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID. For our teachers and students in the classrooms—everybody wearing a mask will keep them in the classrooms.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend facial coverings for middle and high school students, when six feet of distance is not available.

It recommends elementary students wear a mask is they’re old enough to avoid touching the mask on their face.

An infectious disease doctor with Sanford Health says the virus is more likely transmitted from person to person.

Wendell Hoffman says emerging studies show that kids ten and under show fewer symptoms from the virus and are less likely to transmit the disease.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.