South Dakota is one of three states in the upper Midwest without some form of a statewide mask mandate.
Some local governments have already issued their own mask mandates, but that number is growing as COVID spreads through the state.
On Monday night, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation that requires anyone over the age of two to wear a mask in public indoor spaces.
It’s a reversal of a month’s long opposition to mask mandates. It also comes just a few days after North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum issued a statewide mask mandate along with bar and restaurant capacity limits.
Governor Reynolds says if hospitals exceed capacity, every Iowan who needs medical care is at risk.
“If an ambulance is transferring a COVID 19 patient it may not be available to respond to an accident on a rural county road,” Reynolds says. “If hospital beds are full, a loved one who suffers a heart attack, or a stroke may have to be transported miles away to receive life saving treatment.”
Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota do not have any mask policy in place at the state level. In South Dakota, Huron and Brookings have implemented mask mandates. Mitchell and Sioux Falls are considering one. The Rapid City Common Council is expected to bring forward a mask mandate measure for debate, which could be held as early as Thursday.
In a statement to the press, Governor Kristi Noem’s policy advisor Maggie Seidel says “mask mandates, harsh lockdowns, massive testing and contact tracing haven’t worked.”
South Dakota hasn’t taken those measures. Now, it has the second highest death rate in the country for the month of November, according to data compiled by SDPB.
Dr. Elizabeth Racz is an epidemiologist with South Dakota School of Mines. She says it’s important everyone takes the responsibility of wearing a mask.
“Because one case, if it gets out, can cause dispersion of the virus,” Racz says. “With the corner we’ve turned on the curve that we have right now, which is basically exponential growth, not quite, but definitely trending in the wrong direction, will continue through the winter.
The Noem administration says it’s focused on hospital capacity. About 35 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds are available statewide.