SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although coronavirus numbers are surging locally and in South Dakota, “There will not a mask mandate in the near future coming from my office,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said.
TenHaken said during an Oct. 19 news conference about the pandemic that it would not be practical to enforce a mask mandate and a mandate could cause a potential division with the city’s population.
People from Sioux Falls have done well with mask wearing and other coronavirus health and safety actions, but the public and the region needs to do more, TenHaken said. The region includes the area around Sioux Falls but also southwestern Minnesota and northwest Iowa, he said.
TenHaken said that at times “it’s quite ridiculous” how politicized mask wearing has become.
“If you want to live in a state that gives you freedom that comes with responsibility,” TenHaken said.
Yet, he acknowledged it seems difficult for some to wear masks and practice other COVID-19 safety recommendations.
In short, he says he is “asking people to be selfless in an increasingly selfish society.”
Officials from Avera and Sanford also spoke at Monday’s news conference. Dr. David Basel of Avera urged mask wearing.
“Masks work,” Basel said. “There is solid data that shows that masks work pretty significantly.”
When TenHaken last had a news conference on the pandemic on Oct. 5, the Sioux Falls area had 30 new COVID-19 cases and on Oct. 19, the area had 202. Hospitalizations increased from 87 on Oct. 5 to 110 on Oct. 19. The area had 1,096 active cases and had 2,447 on Oct. 19.
TenHaken said he was not proud of those numbers.
It’s clear the state and the region are surging with COVID-19, Basel said. The increases in hospitalizations are a clear indicator that the pandemic is surging, Basel said.
While asking the public to wear masks and be more diligent in their response to COVID-19, TenHaken also encouraged those who are 65 year old and over to be “extra diligent.”
Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford said the public should also consider alternate holiday plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Small social gatherings and larger gatherings have been situations in which COVID-19 has spread, Wilde and Basel said.
Wilde and Basel said their health systems have been able to handle the surge in COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients.
Still, the increases are a strain, Basel said.
Staff may be working longer hours and extra shifts at Avera, Basel
Avera’s local intensive care unit beds are in the mid-30s on Monday and there is a plan for to increase that this week, Basel said. “But there is a limit to that,” he said.
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