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CDC says yes to masks indoors, Noem says no

The South Dakota governor is once again disregarding the CDC’s advice as it relates to COVID-19 preventative measures.
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 9:47 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has changed course on mask wearing once again, after cases across the country have ticked up. Most of these cases are the newer “Delta variant.”

The recommendations suggest that those living in areas with “high” or “substantial” levels of spread wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

However, Governor Kristi Noem has already indicated in a series of tweets that the state of South Dakota’s approach to the issue of mask wearing will not change.

“The CDC shifts their position AGAIN,” Noem lamented on Twitter Tuesday. “South Dakota’s cases remain low. If you’re worried about the virus, you’re free to get vaccinated, wear a mask, or stay at home.”

Noem took to Twitter again Wednesday to signal her disagreement with the CDC’s recommendation that children and staff wear masks in school regardless of vaccination status. Noem signaled that masks will not be mandated at the state level in South Dakota public schools.

The White House pushed back against critics, like Noem.

“Often times (skepticism) is rooted in misunderstanding of the recommendations, or the current threat,” said Dr. Cameron Webb. Webb serves as a Senior Advisor on the White House’s COVID Task Force. “I ask people often, ‘What concerns do you have? What caution do you have about following this guidance that is rooted in science and evidence?’”

According to the CDC’s website, 21 counties in South Dakota are considered “high transmission.” 5 counties were considered to have “substantial transmission.” Thus, it would be recommended that people in those 26 counties wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC is recommending that everyone in counties with high and substantial (red and orange...
The CDC is recommending that everyone in counties with high and substantial (red and orange counties) levels of COVID spread wear masks indoors. However, South Dakota state government is not going to mandate these recommendations.(Center for Disease Control (CDC))

Dr. Mikel Holland of Avera St. Mary’s in Pierre, where transmission is considered “moderate,” is cautiously optimistic.

“It feels a lot like the beginning of the pandemic, when COVID was escalating all around us but not actually here. We know its coming, the Delta variant is the main, circulating variant... The death rate from COVID right now is 99% from unvaccinated people. I would highly encourage vaccination.”

The South Dakota Department of Health did not make anyone available for an interview on the topic, but did continue to urge residents to be careful, and get vaccinated.

“The Department of Health will continue to provide all South Dakotans with the most up-to-date information as it becomes available,” said Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon. “We urge the public to get vaccinated at their earliest convenience, continue risk mitigation factors and make their decisions based on facts, not fear.”

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of localities issued mask mandates in spite of Noem’s decision to not do so at the state level. However, since the CDC’s new recommendations came out Tuesday, no cities or counties in South Dakota have signaled their intent to reinstate a mask mandate.