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South Dakota governor continues to defend not enforcing statewide mask mandate

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Gov. Noem, Sioux Falls COVID-19 presser

PIERRE, S.D. (KTIV) - South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem continues to defend not enforcing a statewide mask mandate.

During a news conference Thursday, Noem said since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has followed the science of the virus. She said with that, they have provided all of the information they have to residents to keep them safe -- and allow them to exercise personal responsibility.

The decision to wear masks was left up to individuals.

Noem said while the number of COVID cases peaked early, things have slowed.

Meanwhile, Noem said states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, which have statewide mask mandates, have seen the number of cases rise.

"There was not alot of data that back up that mask mandates work. Now there are some masks that work and when worn appropriately and when people wear the right ones appropriately in the right situations, they can make a difference," said Noem. "But mandates, if you you look from city to city that have enacted them, it is hard to see a consistency in result.

Noem said when the pandemic first began, she was told by federal health leaders, they could possibly see a peak of more than 10,000 hospitalizations without any action.

To date, Noem said South Dakota's peak was 600 hospitalizations.

In the South Dakota Legislature, Democrats have proposed a statewide mask requirement to slow the spread of the virus.

Republicans, who have the majority, said after the bill was introduced Thursday they would rather stay the course and allow people to decide for themselves whether to wear face coverings in public.

Republican Rep. Kent Peterson, the House majority leader, says he doesn't favor a mandate and doesn't think the bill will get out of the House.

Top Republicans have praised Gov. Kristi Noem's approach of relying on personal responsibility to stop infections from spreading.

Democrats say the bill is similar to a Sioux Falls ordinance that preceded the city's sharp decline in positive cases and hospitalizations.

Blake Branch

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