SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (NewsNation Now) — An Infectious Disease Specialist in South Dakota’s largest city is calling on Republican Gov. Kristi Noem to change the state’s course of action related to mitigation strategies for COVID-19.
“My plea is directly to the Governor. Governor Noem, the people are suffering,” Dr. Wendell Hoffman with Sanford Health told NewsNation affiliate KELOLAND Media Group.
Noem has refused to issue a mask mandates or shutdown any businesses throughout the pandemic.
Noem’s communications director said the governor was not available for an interview on Monday with NewsNation’s affiliate, but issued a statement saying the governor wouldn’t change course.
“She’ll continue trusting South Dakotans to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones,” Ian Fury said.
South Dakota’s percent positive rate is the second-highest in the nation at 58.4%, according to Johns Hopkins University data on Monday.
“You’re in a tough position, but so are we, and so are the patients we are seeing all the time. The fear is palpable. So, we need to change course. I’m begging you,” Hoffman said.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) had previously resisted restrictions, but last week ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions.
In South Dakota, the state reported 897 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and a death toll at 644.
“Every death is tragic, and even one is too many. Some think that a mask mandate would stop the virus in it’s (sic) tracks; sadly, that isn’t the case,” Fury said.
Hoffman is asking Noem to consider a mask mandate.
“You need to encourage all of the mitigating strategies that even have the potential, including masks, which I know you have sort of said the results were mixed. I’m sorry, Governor, but all of medicine is mixed results. That’s what we do everyday. So, please we have to take a different course,” Hoffman said.
Also on Monday, Maggie Seidel, a senior advisor and policy director for Noem said in an email to NewsNation and other media outlets that national coverage was misleading.
“The facts are simple: mask mandates, harsh lockdowns, massive testing and contact tracing haven’t worked — in the United States or abroad,” Seidel said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Americans to wear masks or cloth face coverings to protect others. Last week the agency cited new research that has found that a wearer gets some protection.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to implement mask mandates nationwide. It’s unclear if Noem will follow Biden’s plan, which he needs governors support to implement.
“Look at Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois — states that all have mask mandates but are still seeing rapidly increasing cases. Since the start of the pandemic, Governor Noem has focused on solutions that DO good, not solutions that FEEL good,” Fury said.
The first-term governor served several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before leading the state’s executive branch. She’s garnered national attention for her approach to the pandemic and after speaking at the Republican National Convention in August.