The White House Coronavirus Task Force recommends South Dakota ensure masks at all times in public and said face covering requirements have been shown to “improve adherence and lower transmission” of COVID-19, but Gov. Kristi Noem is unlikely to institute a mask mandate nine months into the pandemic.
When asked whether Noem had seen and reviewed the Nov. 22 document by the task force where they recommended a mask mandate, her response to it and if she plans for any change in state face mask policy, the Republican governor’s senior policy analyst, Maggie Seidel, said “I think our response on the mask mandates are pretty well covered at this point.”
Seidel also said “I’m still waiting for someone to point me to where in the world mask mandates are working.”
The task force also asked the state to recruit clinical personnel from local facilities to convey the importance of face coverings, and to reach out to retail service providers about the need for face coverings for staff and clientele.
Seidel gave the same response to questions about whether Noem had seen and responded to a letter from two Indigenous state legislators asking for mask mandates, and a letter from a church leader asking for a mask mandate.
Rep. Peri Pourier and Sen. Red Dawn Foster, both Democrats from Pine Ridge representing District 27, had signed onto the Nov. 19 letter urging Noem to implement the mask mandate as the state’s COVID-19 death toll rose.
“There really isn’t a need to battle over statistics and politics right now,” the legislators wrote. “This isn’t a political game of playing roulette with our communities or our families. It is an issue of public health that surpasses political parties and hits the core of our humanity. Wearing a mask is not infringing upon our freedom, but rather is looking out for our neighbors and our communities.”
Brigit Stevens, a minister for the South Dakota United Church of Christ, said in her Nov. 25 letter that wearing a mask harkens back to the biblical idea of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
“Today, we love our neighbors by wearing face masks,” Stevens wrote on behalf of the church conference. “Wearing a mask is an action of care for others, even more than for ourselves. It is the moral thing to do.”