We’ve heard from a South Dakota traveling emergency room nurse who spoke about how some COVID-19 patients still don’t believe the virus is real, even on their death beds.

Tonight another health care professional is speaking out about the toll the last 8 months have taken on her and the problems she sees with the way South Dakota is handling the pandemic.

Before the pandemic hit, Nurse Practitioner Jess Lomheim worked at a South Dakota Indian reservation clinic and Rapid City’s urgent care.

But her own autoimmune disease has forced her to see patients via telehealth for the last eight months. Because she is an independent nursing contractor in Iowa and Wisconsin, she says she has more freedom to speak out and paint a true picture of what’s happening in the pandemic.

SD Native and Nurse Practitioner Jess Lomheim is now working teleheath in Wisconsin and Iowa

“This is worst case scenario–hospitals full at the start of upper respiratory and viral season. Everyone is worn out. We don’t have resources to call in like the coasts did,” Lomheim said.

Lomheim says because she works in multiple states, she has developed a good picture of what’s going on across the upper Midwest.

“You can’t ship people out to us anymore. There are no beds to go to. Or if there are beds, there are no nurses to serve those beds. We have limited resources,” Lomheim said.

Lomheim believes direction to keep people out of the hospital must come from the top.

“I’m from Pierre. I could die about the last week.. the Dome, all the getting together–there wasn’t a mask worn in that entire celebration, including by the governor. The messaging is atrocious. It’s a slap in the face.

Submitted photo: Kristi Noem at DakotaDome in Vermillion last weekend

The governor’s office did provide us with this photo of Kristi Noem wearing a mask at the DakotaDome.

Photo submitted by Ian Fury: John Krogstrand of the SDHSAA with Gov. Noem

Despite that, Lomheim believes that leadership decisions going back to this summer have lead to massive spread of coronovirus.

“We in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are seeing a lot of people from Sturgis, that did come back across the border and did spread in small communities; that’s all been originated to there. Once we started to have those super spreaders; once we had the cavalier behavior that was, ‘who cares, come visit us, we’re not sick here;’ drawing people from the coasts, drawing people from the south when we had no testing; no way to know who was asymptomatic and carrying. You are most contagious at the very beginning of this illness, mostly when you don’t have symptoms.”

Nurse Practitioner, Jess Lomheim
Thousands of bikers rode through the streets for the opening day of the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle rally Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Sturgis, S.D. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

She says after growing up in South Dakota, she knows people do care and will do the right thing if it’s modeled for them.

“It makes me emotional… sorry. You see people jump in when someone has a heart attack and take care of calving season for someone and make sure a family is fed or if someone dies, or whatnot.. and they won’t wear a mask. It just seems insane. Or they won’t not go to the bar. Like how is that a choice? You can literally kill someone with your flippant behavior.

Lomheim is also concerned about health care worker burnout. She says she and most of her colleagues have not been able to get many days off during the last eight months and she has seen colleagues leaving their jobs altogether.