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.

Katrina Raysby

South Dakota remains a COVID hot spot, and has been for weeks.  

Governor Kristi Noem’s policy response to the pandemic has remained largely the same, even as the number of positive COVID 19 cases has set new daily records.  

Kathy James’ family has been careful, they’ve taken precautions. Despite that, her son-in-law, Doug  Raysby, died of COVID-19.

“Doug is… Doug was… Doug was everything that Trina and I are not,” James said. “He’s quiet and passive and easy going. Doesn’t ruffle feathers.”

Covid-19 Update: Dr. David Basel

Oct 26, 2020

In The Moment … October 26, 2020 Show 928 Hour 2

South Dakota reached 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in one twice in October. The odds that you personally know someone with a confirmed case have increased. What do we know now about this virus that we didn't know before? When should you go to the hospital during a bout with the deadly disease? What can we do to fight back the latest virus surge?  Dr. David Basel is vice president for Clinical Quality with Avera Medical Group. 

Health reporting on SDPB is supported by Monument Health

Steve Munsen

The South Dakota Speaker of the House says it’s been three days since he’s had a fever after contracting the coronavirus.

Republican Steve Haugaard says he’s feeling much better.

It was two weeks of non-stop fever. Speaker Haugaard says he tried to manage it with Tylenol and Ibuprophen. But his fever persisted.

“Temperatures seemed to hover anywhere from 100 to 105," Haugaard says.

Haugaard from Sioux Falls says he never lost his sense of taste or smell.

Health officials in eight states report COVID-19 cases from people who were at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands of visitors attended - and South Dakota is now doing mass COVID testing for anyone in Sturgis

The state has hosted a couple of the largest public gatherings since the pandemic began. That includes a Mt. Rushmore fireworks show for thousands earlier this summer.

As a reporter, I covered those events. My exposure to the crowds made me wonder what it takes to get a COVID-19 test in South Dakota.

Rapid City Area Schools Plans For More Student Engagement

Aug 27, 2020

Rapid City Area School Board recently voted to approve its “Together Again, Back to  School Plan“ for the physical return of students and teachers for this upcoming school year.

The back to school plan is a fluid and procedural guide to how the district will operate during the pandemic. One problem the district discovered during the closure last spring was how to best stay in touch with students.

Rapid City Areas Schools lost contact with 30 percent of its students when the pandemic hit last spring.

In The Moment ... August 21, 2020 Show 886 Hour 1

SAB Biotherapeutics in Sioux Falls announced the first step in its trial of a COVID 19 therapeutic earlier this month, dosing the first group of healthy volunteers. Today, they're announcing the trial's next step.

Science and Technology reporting is brought to you by SDN Communications, your business broadband provider. Learn more at

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Sturgis Rally traffic has been on the rise during the first weekend of the event. The South Dakota Department of Transportation reports about 161,000 vehicles visited Sturgis in the first three days of the rally. That’s down about 4 percent from last year’s numbers. Many at the rally say they’re enjoying a respite from pandemic restrictions in their home state.

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.


The three major healthcare systems in South Dakota all agree—masks help slow the spread of COVID 19.

Each system requires a mask to enter its hospitals and clinics. They all recommend that people wear a mask in public, especially when social distancing is not possible.

However, there are some political leaders who still aren’t sure.

President Donald Trump has questioned masks. He’s refused to wear them in public, until recently. In fact, now, he occasionally mentions them.

The South Dakota Department of Health is reporting nearly 250 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday.

Just over half of those cases come from Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties. Health officials say they aren’t sure where the surge in cases is coming from.

Seven of the nearly 250 cases come from a Black Hills Christian youth summer camp, which is now closed.

But that’s the only cluster health officials are reporting from over the weekend.

State epidemiologist Josh Clayton says the large increase in cases is a concern.


Governor Kristi Noem’s state budget managers anticipate a nearly $40 million dollar decrease in anticipated revenue over the course of the current fiscal year.

The state ended the last fiscal year with a $19 million dollar surplus.

Once COVID 19 reached South Dakota, the state cut back on it’s operations.

Liza Clark is the chief financial officer for the state.

She says the $19 million dollar surplus is due to the state reducing it’s spending during the last quarter of the fiscal year and to utilize some CARES Act relief dollars.

The South Dakota Attorney General sent state agents to reservations as part of an investigation into tribal checkpoints on state and federal highways.

Those agents were on fact-finding missions about how the checkpoints were conducted.

That update came during the state-tribal relations committee meeting.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says his office did not direct any citizens to go or not go through the checkpoints as part of their investigation.


US Senator Mike Rounds says wearing a mask should not be a political statement.

He doesn’t think masks should be mandated, but he says South Dakotan’s should wear a mask to slow the spread of infection to senior citizens and children.

It’s a different tone than Governor Kristi Noem, who is pushing against mask mandates, instead.

Rounds says people should not be afraid to wear a mask, especially if they’re indoors.

Carrie Middle Tent still has side effects from a bout with COVID-19, which she caught more than two months ago. She still can’t taste or smell things like she once could. Members of her family got the virus too. They’re enrolled members of the Crow Creek tribe and live in Rapid City. For three days she had a small cough and chest pressure.

“I thought I was actually feeling pretty good, but that’s when I started getting really bad, short of breath,” Middle Tent says.

Then, she developed a fever, cold sweats, and even fainted.

South Dakota Board of Regents

None of South Dakota’s public universities are planning to require masks in the fall semester. Instead, they’re strongly encouraging masks by setting an example through social media and other platforms. 

Pennington County GOP Facebook

An active member of the Pennington County Republican Party has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email by party officials.

That person attended a GOP convention event held in Rapid City last weekend.

The state party set up a digital convention this year, and passed temporary rules that allowed members to attend virtually for social distancing.

But, the Pennington County GOP joined the convention from a conference hall at the Ramkota in Rapid City.

Since then, one attendee has tested positive for COVID-19.

South Dakota Universities Prepare For Fall Semester

Jun 20, 2020
South Dakota Board of Regents

South Dakota Board of Regents Schools are making adjustments to their fall semester schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The institutions semesters begin on August 19th and are ending before Thanksgiving.

The fall semester for South Dakota’s universities are beginning three days earlier than originally scheduled. This is part of the Board of Regent’s plan to have students return to campus during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Maintains Status Quo

Jun 9, 2020
Remi Bald Eagle / Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Over the last couple of months, the streets of Rapid City seemed all but dead – save a few stragglers here and there – due to people self-quarantining.

Even though June is supposed to be the state’s peak in confirmed cases, South Dakota and her cities and towns are relaxing their COVID-19 restrictions to get “Back to Normal.”

While that’s happening, places like the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) are maintaining their status quo.


This story aired as part of SDPB's series on the food supply chain. 

The coronavirus pandemic highlights just how fragile our food supply chain is. The Smithfield meat packing plant in Sioux Falls has been one of the nation’s hotspots for COVID-19. The virus infected hundreds of workers and the plant is still coming back from a three-week shut down. 

After fighting off an initial hotspot in the early days of the pandemic in South Dakota, Beadle County is again leading the state in new COVID-19 cases. Health officials announced 33 new cases Thursday. Department of Health officials point to an ongoing cluster at the LSI Jack Links plant in Alpena as the main source of new cases. One employee has died from the virus.

State epidemiologist Josh Clayton says 99 cases have been tied to the plant, and 47 of those have recovered.

BOR Condenses Fall Semester in Response to COVID-19

Jun 4, 2020
South Dakota Board of Regents

The Board of Regents has new information about the fall semester for the state’s six public universities. Students will start classes a few days earlier and finish in-person classes by Thanksgiving. 

Janelle Toman  is the communications director for the Regents. She says students will take their final exams remotely after the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s up to individual universities and programs to determine any other adjustments to their fall calendar.


In The Moment ... April 30, 2020 Show 807 Hour 2

Tonight at 8 Central 7 Mountain, South Dakota Focus will take a closer look at the nursing home and long term care facilities in the state in relation to COVID 19. SDPB's Stephanie Rissler is the host of the show and joins us today with a preview.

We are also joined by SDPB's Jackie Hendry who will be featured on the program.


Parade Thanks Sioux San Hospital Campus Employees

Apr 21, 2020

Health care workers around the state and nation continue to put themselves at risk to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Rapid City, community members held a drive by car caravan to thank Indian Health Service employees. 

People honk horns, wave out car windows and hold up signs thanking essential employees. Health care workers line the sidewalks and wave back, their eyes grinning behind their face masks. 

Richie Richards organized the event. 

NDN Collective

A Rapid City organization is raising money to support Indigenous efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. NDN Collective has raised more than three million dollars for organizations working with Indigenous communities around the country.

NDN Collective was started a few years ago to help support Indigenous leaders and efforts. Now, they’ve changed their focus to funding pandemic relief. Nick Tilsen is the President.

Community Theater Brings Back Radio Plays

Apr 14, 2020

Before there was television, radio theatre entertained families in their homes. Actors read their lines complete with sound effects - and imagination helped the productions come to life. Well, the Sioux Empire Community Theater is bringing that tradition back. It’s a way to share shows virtually during the global pandemic.  


The Sioux Empire Community Theater’s ‘virtual season’ has begun. The first radio play is called  “Death of a Jazz Man.” It’s a Monty Python-esque retelling of “Death of Salesman.”


Artists And COVID-19: Kimberly Bachman

Apr 14, 2020

Elderly residents of assisted living homes could once enjoy musical performances and on-site entertainment. But the coronavirus pandemic means those events are canceled to protect residents in the homes who pose a high risk for COVID-19. 

Kimberly Bachman is a part time traveling musician. She plays banjo, mandolin and guitar under the stage name Kimberly Kaye. This year, she had a plan to tour the state. Specifically, she wanted to  perform her style of old time country, bluegrass music at nursing homes across South Dakota.

Artists And COVID-19: Jean Roach

Apr 14, 2020

Some artists depend on networking and social interaction to sell their work. But for now, travel to gallery shows and art fairs is on hold. And that means many creators are struggling for ways to make a living during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Jean Roach creates and sells handmade jewelry. She’s been an artist most of her life, starting with beadwork.   

Artists And COVID-19: Dylan James Lewis

Apr 14, 2020

Musicians are canceling gigs months in advance to follow social distancing practices and avoid bringing people together in groups. It’s an essential public health response to a pandemic, but it also means no income for full time musicians.  

Dylan James Lewis is in several bands. He plays guitar and mandolin… is in a band with his life partner and pieces together his income.

“Giving music lessons, playing gigs and shows by myself as well as with other bands and then with my main project which is with my life partner and that’s called Humbletown.”

Pharmacy Services at Lewis Drug

Apr 6, 2020

In The Moment ... April 6, 2020 Show 789 Hour 1

Pharmacies across South Dakota have been feeling the effects of coronavirus. The efforts to fill prescriptions in a timely manner have been tested. Several facets of the pharmacy departments across the state have been challenged. Jessica Strobl is director of pharmacy services at Lewis Drug, she joins us today to discuss how COVID 19 has affected what she and her staff do.


Education and Healthcare reporting on SDPB is supported by Monument Health of Rapid City