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Mayor urges residents to wear masks when attending Independence Day events
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Mayor urges residents to wear masks when attending Independence Day events

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Allender presser file photo

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender addresses media questions during a previous press conference at City Hall.

Mayor Steve Allender implored residents and visitors alike Wednesday to wear a face mask while celebrating Independence Day and President Donald Trump's visit to the fireworks display on Friday at Mount Rushmore.

"I think the jury is in on what we should be doing. I think it makes good sense for us to be wearing masks when we are going to public places," Allender said during a news conference. "Especially in places where we cannot control the distance between us and other people."

Allender's comments come just a few days after Gov. Kristi Noem said there will be no social distancing policy for those in attendance for the return of fireworks to Mount Rushmore and Trump's visit for the festivities on Friday.

The mayor said the spike in COVID-19 cases across the country means every citizen has a personal responsibility to do what it right.

"By now you're figuring out, and if you haven't, you should be figuring out there is not a near end in sight to this pandemic. It's lingering," Allender said. "Part of the reason of that is we've done a good job of being safe... We are still ascending to our peak, but what we are seeing a a very slow ascent. That means we are pushing out the duration of the infection spread in our community."

Allender said the vast majority of the community residents are doing the right thing, but there is a concern that introducing thousands of people to the Friday event with Trump will cause an unnecessary spike in COVID-19 cases, simply because people aren't doing the right thing.

"We're going to have thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder at these events — someone in line to see a president and being able to see fireworks at Mount Rushmore — they are probably not likely to disqualify themself because they developed a cough the day of or the day before," Allender said. "It's obviously an apparent health risk, but I'll let you know in a couple of weeks after if it was really a health risk. Between that and the other special events we have here, if in fact it will cause an infection, we should be seeing those results within a couple of weeks."

Allender said security will be provided for Trump's visit and those who wish to celebrate it or protest against it by the police department, but the concern for public health is a pressing concern.

"We're all crossing our fingers. Our public safety employees always take precautions," he said.

Contact Assistant Managing Editor Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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