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TenHaken: ‘We have let our guard down’ in wearing masks, helping slow spread of COVID-19

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 4:07 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is issuing a call to action for people in the city, and region. He’s encouraging more people to wear masks, as COVID cases continue to climb.

Tenhaken expressed his frustrations with people not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. He feels many have let their guard down and is calling on everyone to be more diligent in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

As the city of Sioux Falls continues to see positive cases of COVID-19 climb, hospitalizations are also on the rise. TenHaken says hospitals are managing, but they are busy.

“I have health care partners that are saying we need help, we need more to be done,” said TenHaken.

He estimates 15 to 20 percent of staffed beds are currently being used for COVID-19 patients. Avera and Sanford are implementing surge strategies to help with the increased demand, such as opening up more ICU beds.

“We do need the public’s help with this. There is a limit to how far we can increase,” said Dr. David Basel, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group.

“We also agree that we’ve got to keep as many things open, our schools, our businesses, our economy as much as possible. Our ability to do that depends on each and everyone of you. And how can you help? Masking is probably first and most important.”

TenHaken said his administration won’t call for a mask mandate in the city because he believes it isn’t enforceable and will only lead to greater division among residents. However, he is calling on everyone to do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Wear a dang mask when you’re indoors. We’re not asking you to sign up for the draft here. We’re asking you to wear a mask when you’re inside and you can’t distance. Social distance. Take that seriously,” sad TenHaken.

You’ll likely see more signage encouraging mask use on billboards and social media. It’s part of a joint effort between the city, Sanford, and Avera.

“If you want to live in a state that gives you freedoms, that comes with an expectation of responsibility and I need this region to do more right now,” said TenHaken.

TenHaken also said wearing a mask isn’t a republican or democrat issue, but rather a public health issue.

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Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is urging residents to do more to help slow the spread of COVID-19 as he says residents have “let our guard down” when it comes to mask-wearing, social distancing, and avoiding groups.

“We need this region and each of you to do your part. We need more. Our schools need you to do more. Our hospitals need you to do more,” TenHaken said at a media briefing with the city’s health care partners on Monday.

TenHaken urged businesses to follow the city’s lead when it comes to mandating employees to wear masks. TenHaken still hasn’t put a mask mandate in place for residents saying, “it’s not enforceable.” TenHaken says residents can continue to see “strong messaging” from the city in the form of billboards and social media campaigns, urging mask-wearing.

TenHaken also emphasized throughout the briefing that the problem is a regional one and not just a Sioux Falls problem as many hospitalizations are coming from outside city limits. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, COVID-19 patients occupy 15.4% of staffed hospital beds and 19.5% of ICU in the Sioux Empire.

According to the city, there are 2,447 active cases in Sioux Falls. 140 of those cases are currently hospitalized.

Dr. David Basel, vice president for clinical quality at Avera says there is no doubt the health system has seen an increase in hospitalized cases in the past month. Dr. Basel also gave an update on the health system’s increase in ICU beds, saying they’ve increased their capacity by more than 10 and have a plan in place to increase it even more.

Health officials also shared their concerns over the upcoming holidays.

Sanford University and Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Wilde says families should consider whether or not to gather or travel for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Health officials nationally have urged families to reconsider large gatherings indoors this holiday season.

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