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Organizations join ‘Mask Up South Dakota' campaign

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 6:24 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Over the last two weeks, South Dakota has been home to the nation’s second-highest number of new COVID cases per capita. Now, several organizations are teaming up to ask for help.

Sanford and Avera are among those promoting "Mask Up South Dakota and #MASKUPSODAK. They have a simple message for the public that they hope makes a big impact.

Good hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing a mask. It’s a familiar message, you’ve probably heard over and over. But as we get into flu season, these organizations say it’s an important reminder.

The group supports keeping South Dakota open and believes following CDC guidelines such as wearing a mask is the safest way to do that. However, they are not looking for a mask mandate from the government.

“We appreciate the governor’s call to action for personal responsibility in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, President of the South Dakota State Medical Association.

“We are talking to the individual people, the people who need to decide on how they are going to care. They should be the ones who are making that decision. They need to talk to their physician and be able to get the best information and one of the ways that we can give them the best information is to have a press conference such as this,” said Dr. Aaker.

Dr. Aaker is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says these measures are especially important in ensuring there are enough resources at hospitals.

“Hospitals are very busy, and some have been operationalizing steps and surge plans to increase bed capacity, but there is an upper limit that we hope we don’t reach,” said Dr. Aaker.

Flu season overlapping with COVID-19 is another reason health officials urge people to take precautions.

“When people stay inside more we are going to be more susceptible, especially inside with groups of people. So the flu season just compounds that. Now you hope it might be a relatively slow flu season. We do not know that yet, so just make smart decisions,” said Bob Sutton, President, and CEO of Avera Health.

The group says masking will also help keep business open.

“That we have an economy that stays strong through this. At some point in time, we know we’ll have the vaccines. But in the meantime we want to make sure we are keeping ourselves safe and just being personally responsible and being good neighbors,” said Debra Owen, Director of Public Policy at Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce.

“And it can save lives. If you mask that life could be your mother, father, your friend, or even your own,” said Dr. Aaaker.

While this group is not asking for a mask mandate, Sioux Falls City Councilor Curt Soehl will be asking for one. He will be proposing a mask mandate at next week’s city council meeting on November 3rd.

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