SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One of South Dakota’s largest groups of medical doctors supports mask requirements for South Dakota schools.
The current president of the South Dakota State Medical Association said the group of more than 2,000 South Dakota medical doctors supports the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We do follow along with the recommendations that children should wear facemasks in school,” SDSMA president Dr. Kara L. Dahl told KELOLAND News. “It’s an indoor setting and unfortunately it’s an unvaccinated population. That’s something we do support.”
Dahl is an emergency medicine physician at Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center and became the SDSMA president in June. She said she understands the dilemma many school boards are facing when it comes to masks.
“I know it’s tough,” Dahl said. “Masks do work. Is it perfect? No, but that’s why we have to look at vaccines and achieve that higher rate of vaccination status in our state and in our country.”
State vaccine numbers updated Wednesday by the South Dakota Department of Health show 54% of the state’s population 12-years-old and older are fully vaccinated. The DOH is reporting 31% of the state’s 16-17-year-olds are vaccinated, while the 12-15 age group is 24% vaccinated. The DOH does not report vaccines provided for Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.
“Without having vaccines for children under 12, they are more susceptible. There are more younger people and children at this point in time getting sick with the Delta variant,” Dahl said. “We want children to still be able to socialize and go to school, but until we can get this under control that’s something that is supported by science.”
Like many recommendations surrounding COVID-19, Dahl said recommendations about wearing masks in schools could change. She agreed it can be frustrating, but she said recommendations will continue to be updated based on what’s going on with the virus.
“At this point, it’s a topic that’s going to continue to be evaluated and we can get to a point where kids don’t need to wear masks in school,” Dahl said.
Dahl highlighted concerned parents or anyone with concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should reach out to his or her medical provider. She added people should follow case counts per county as an important metric to know what is happening locally in terms of the spread of the virus.