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COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Sioux Falls; TenHaken says mask mandate “unenforceable”

Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 5:39 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Health officials from Avera and Sanford Health say their staff numbers are stretched thin due to the coronavirus at a city media conference Monday.

Avera and Sanford Health officials say their staffing is working in areas they’re not used to due to capacity issues.

“We’ve got people working extra shifts, doing things that they’re not used to doing, not comfortable with. We have got so many critically ill patients in our hospital, critically ill from COVID, as well as other things. We just don’t have enough critically trained nurses. We don’t have enough intensivists. We don’t have enough people to take care of all of these patients that are coming in and so our staff is stretched thin,” says Avera Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Elliott.

Dr. Elliott also says Avera is doubling up some ICU rooms with two patients and says those rooms are big enough to support that.

Currently, 204 staffed hospital beds and 48 staffed ICU beds are occupied by coronavirus patients in the Sioux Empire, according to the South Dakota Department of Health. Statewide, 402 South Dakotans are currently hospitalized.

Chances of a mask mandate coming to the city appear to be slim. Mayor Paul TenHaken called the mandate “simply unenforceable” at the media conference while still urging the public to wear masks. TenHaken said it would put law enforcement in a challenging situation.

“I will continue, however, to be adamant on the importance of facial coverings. They can help slow the spread. The science is quite clear on that. I believe in that. You’ll see increased messaging and PSAs from my office on that in the days and weeks ahead," says TenHaken. "I, as a mayor, can only do so much to try and control the behavior of 200-thousand people and in this case 500-thousand people. I am one mayor of 80 frickin square miles, trying to control the behavior of an entire tri-state and quite frankly, I’m done.”

Health officials noted the public is not doing its duty in regard to wearing a mask and that hospital staff is becoming increasingly frustrated.

Sioux Falls City Council will hear a mask mandate proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting.

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