SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota is setting new COVID-19 records just about everyday. Local leaders and doctors are responding to the surge by urging people to wear masks and social distance. Governor Kristi Noem continues to question whether either of those things will protect you from the virus. A closer look at her latest comments in this COVID-19 Beyond the numbers.

The South Dakota Department of Health website says everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings. It also says to avoid close contact and put 6 feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your house.

Local Health officials agree that masks and social distancing work.

“Most of the studies that I see kind of say somewhere between 50 to 90 percent effective,” said Dr. David Basel with Avera Health.

Governor Kristi Noem continues to question those things. In a letter written to the Rapid City Journal, Noem writes “we know hand washing kills the virus” and masks are only appropriate in certain situations, like when you are “caring for a symptomatic person who is coughing or sneezing.”

That goes against information on the state website saying “the cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.”

In the letter, Noem says she’s been contacted by medical professionals who are afraid to speak out against masks, out of fear of losing their medical licenses or their jobs.

We reached out to the South Dakota State Medical Association to see if doctors have been contacting the organization with concerns. We’re told the SDSMA hasn’t heard anything like this from physicians.

Noem goes on to urge South Dakotans to be “extra diligent about their personal hygiene and stay home if they are sick. Those are both suggestions the state health department and CDC agree with.

Noem ends the letter saying, “Our trust in the data and in each other has been rewarded.”

The day after the letter was posted online, South Dakota health officials confirmed 14 more people with coronavirus died. The state also confirmed 973 positive tests, 9,273 active cases and 355 coronavirus hospitalizations in South Dakota.

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