Rapid City views on a mask mandate

Eye on KELOLAND

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a conversation cities and counties are having all across KELOLAND and the country. When a mask mandate is on the agenda, people line up to share their opinions and most are passionate about their beliefs.

It’s a scene playing out in one South Dakota city after another, complete with protestors and plenty of public comment.

Registered Nurse Holly Knox showed up to show her support for a citywide mandate in Rapid City.

“A mask mandate is important to me because I have older parents, because my family works the frontline, because I have a class of 2020 senior who has sacrificed way too much, because my middle schooler needs adequate instruction,” Knox said.

Knox says she doesn’t wear a mask to promote fear, but to show respect and to protect others from COVID-19.

“Those on the frontline are tired. Those of you who have voted yes or are inclined to do so tonight, I thank you by choosing to act. You are showing leadership and empathy. You are showing that you are able to lead in such a way which demonstrates your willingness to learn and grow,” Knox said.

Despite rules requiring masks in city buildings, not everyone wears one. But people are social distancing because just 28 people are allowed in the room at a time. Others are waiting outside for the opportunity to speak.

Crystal Kesler moved to South Dakota from Colorado.

“We moved here for a reason, I urge you to consider this a fight for freedom,” Kesler said.

Rather than forcing people to wear masks, Kesler says she wants her children to feel comfortable in Rapid City.

“As a mother I want to tell you that your governmental policies cannot save lives, they can only trade them. Change your vote to no please,” Kesler said.

Like many meetings across the state, the majority of the people at Rapid City’s special council meeting oppose any form of mask mandate.

Essence of Coffee owner, Michael Fewson, says people should take personal responsibility.

“I’m not overly fond of the idea, mainly because then the owners, it falls on us to police it and it gets really awkward because obviously, it’s going to affect our relationship with our customers,” Fewson said.

Fewson says a mask requirement would add another layer of difficulty in an already difficult time for his staff and his business.

“I think masks have a place, along with social distancing but at the same time we have to live. I mean you’re talking about a cafe. People are going to come in, they want to drink coffee, they want to eat food, you can’t do that through a mask,” Fewson said.

However, Dr. Kevin Weiland, an Internist at Rapid City Medical Center says now is the time for the city to act… not only to protect people but to ease the stress on our hospitals.

“We’re human too, we’re getting sick, our doctors in the ICU are getting sick, our nurses. Once you get the population of first responders sick, who’s going to take care of you when you’re sick?” Dr. Weiland said.

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, currently, in Pennington County, there have been 8,670 confirmed cases and in the entire state of South Dakota, there have been more than 80,000 cases.”

Dr. Weiland says, even if you have mild symptoms, COVID-19 can have a lasting impact on a patient’s health.

“Chronic fatigue, forgetfulness, body aches and joint aches. It’s just a miserable existence for them, they change,” Dr. Weiland said.

Dr. Weiland says says it doesn’t take much to protect yourself…

“It’s all we have. Social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask,” Dr. Weiland said.

It’s the same advice we get from the CDC, but not everyone in this room agrees with it. And no matter what the council decides, not everyone will support it.

The Rapid City Council will discuss the second reading of the revised ordinance next Monday.

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