PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — In her first news conference focused on coronavirus since July, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem acknowledged COVID-19 is something people in the state will be dealing with into 2021.
She says she recognizes people are tired and exhausted from the pandemic while encouraging people to take personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I don’t want to approach a policy or a mandate, looking to make people feel good. I want to do good,” Gov. Noem said when asked about responding to medical professionals who are asking for a mask mandate.
On Tuesday night, Sioux Falls became the latest South Dakota city to approve a mask mandate.
“At this point, frankly, I’m getting more concerned about how neighbors are treating neighbors and how people are treating each other in their communities,” Gov. Noem said, speaking about tensions over mask wearing.
Her comments come on the same day the state reported 30 new deaths from COVID-19. Of the 674 deaths throughout the pandemic, nearly 250 deaths have been reported in the month of November alone.
As of Wednesday, the state’s total case count stands at 68,671. Total recovered cases are now at 48,757. Active cases are at 19,240 with current hospitalizations at 593.
Gov. Noem pointed out vulnerable elderly populations need more protections. She said her heart breaks for those who are most vulnerable to the virus.
She said there’s not been one government policy that has shown it will slow the spread of COVID-19 down.
Also during the news conference, she thanked front line workers including teachers, truck drivers and farmers among others.
She outlined the various ways South Dakota is using $1.5 billion of CARES Act money given to the state by the federal government. The money must be allocated by December 31.
She says the state wants to make sure it is able to help families and businesses struggling during the pandemic.
Some of the CARES Act money is going to pay for the K-12 Connect Program, which provides free internet service for students with distance learning. Students would have access to the internet through June 30, 2021. The deadline to apply is this Friday, November 20.
Noem says just under 6,000 grant applications came in for COVID-19 funds from small biz and non-profits, but more money will be available. In addition, Gov. Noem said state government is looking to get hazard pay out to health care workers.