It is no secret that South Dakota’s COVID-19 cases have been excessively trending upward. According to a study done by The New York Times, South Dakota was averaging 702 cases per day during the week of Oct. 12, 2020 to Oct. 19, 2020, an increase of 72% from the average two weeks prior. With the majority of these diagnoses coming from the city of Sioux Falls, mayor Paul TenHaken held a press conference on Monday to strongly urge citizens to do their part in slowing the spread of the virus.
The main issue brought up during the meeting was the wearing of masks. TenHaken noted that all city employees will be required to wear a mask in public, common areas and when they are unable to social distance. Although he will not be putting a city-wide mask mandate in place, the mayor strongly encouraged other business owners and citizens to protect themselves and those around them with a similar mask-wearing philosophy.
“Wear a dang mask when you’re indoors — we’re not asking you to sign up for a draft here,” said Tenhaken.
Later in the conference, the mayor questions those who oppose mask-wearing. He also adds how politicizing the pandemic could lead to dangerous outcomes to the city’s health and safety.
“I’m not sure when or why this issue became so dang political. This is not an R or a D issue, this is a public health issue. And at times I’m embarrassed at how politicized this has become,” said TenHaken.
Due to people inconsistently wearing masks, TenHaken plans to do all he can to keep the city’s health at the forefront, especially amidst the rising positive cases and hospitalization rates. According to the COVID Tracking Project, South Dakota had the nation’s highest rate of positive tests over the last 14 days with almost 24%, more than four times the national average of 5.1%. This number is concerning considering hospitalizations are also on the rise at 241 in the state with 110 in Sioux Falls.
Despite the growing anxiety surrounding the virus, citizens of Sioux Falls appreciate Monday’s conference and the actions that are being taken to slow the spread. TenHaken also mentioned the city would begin holding regular COVID-19 briefings every other week with more updates in order to keep the city somewhat at ease.