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As COVID Cases Rise, State Officials & Governor Send Mixed Messages
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Governor Noem
Governor Noem at Wednesday's Press Conference

COVID has had its deadliest month in South Dakota.

As the number of cases continue to set new records, state officials and the governor have some mixed messages on best practices to reduce the spread.


State health officials say 249 South Dakotans have died from COVID so far this month. That’s one of the highest death-rates per capita in the country.

Governor Kristi Nome says it’s clear older people and those with health conditions are most susceptible to the virus.

Noem says about half of the state’s COVID deaths are nursing home residents.

“We need to take extra precautions to protect those folks, that vulnerable population, to ensure that we’re keeping them from getting the virus before we can get them the vaccine.” Noem says.

State surrounding South Dakota, including Iowa and North Dakota have put mask mandates into effect recently. Cities and counties in South Dakota have adopted their own mask requirements. However, Governor Noem says she hasn’t found a government policy, especially requiring masks, that is consistently proven to slow the spread.

“I would look at the science, that I would look at the data and the facts and really put forward some ideas and provisions for the state of South Dakota based on that,” Noem says. “There isn't consistency on mask mandates that leads to less spread in many communities that we’re seeing in other states.”

Just after the governor’s press conference, a state government list serve emailed out a COVID- update from the Centers for Disease Control. It says epidemiological data supports masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.


Dr. Elizebeth Racz is an epidemiologist at South Dakota School of Mines. She says aerosal transmission lets one asymptomatic person multiple people unknowingly.

“That’s what it’s so important every single person take the responsibility of wearing a mask,” Racz says. “Because one case, if it gets out, can cause dispersion of the virus.”

Racz says if attitudes about wearing masks don’t change, We're missing out on one of the most basic techniques to stop the spread.

-Contact SDPB reporter Lee Strubinger by email.