Gov. Kristi Noem wrote in a fundraising email Friday that she is “encouraging all families to send their children back to school — without masks.”
Noem wrote that it will be up to every school district to choose how they wish to handle mask issues, but she believes they should be “optional only.”
Noem said children have an “extraordinarily difficult time wearing masks” and suggested that those who wear masks may actually increase their rates of infection.
“Kids constantly fidget with masks, touch their faces, drop masks on the floor and put them back on, and possibly even trade with each other,” Noem said in the email. “We believe that when it comes to children, masks have the potential to do more harm than good.”
Neighboring governors have taken a different stance. Her Republican peers in Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska have all promoted masks at some point. Democratic governors in Montana and Minnesota have urged masks.
South Dakota’s three largest hospital systems — Sanford, Avera and Monument Health — all have said that masks help slow the spread of COVID-19. The South Dakota State Medical Association is urging school boards to require masks this fall.