Council discusses masks as COVID-19 cases increase

PIERRE, S.D. (By Danielle Ferguson, Sioux Falls Argus Leader and Elisa Sand – Seven more people have died and another 25 were reported hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 Tuesday as cases surpassed 34,000, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.

The number of deaths in the state from the virus is now at 330. Two people were from Lincoln County, the others were from Beadle, Kingsbury, Mellette, Minnehaha and Pennington counties. This is Mellette County’s first reported death.

Four of the deaths were in people aged 80 and older. Two of the deaths were in people aged 70-79, and one death was in people aged 50-59.

The number of active cases increased by 53 for a total of 8,441, according to health statistics. Recoveries were up by 561, which was almost the same as the number of new reported cases.

The additional 562 confirmed cases came from 8,455 tests. Since the start started tracking in the spring, 375,995 tests have been done, and that includes people who have been tested more than once.

Of those new cases, Brown County added 23 new cases, bringing the total positive cases to 1,807. Of those cases, 373 are active. Codington County added 18 new cases for a total of 1,285. Of those, 272 are active cases.

Around the area, Roberts County added 11 new cases and Grant and Faulk counties each added seven. Day County added six new cases and Kingsbury County added five. Deuel County added four new cases; Edmunds, Hamlin and Spink counties each added three; Walworth and Clark counties each aded two; and Marshall County added one new case.

Other places in South Dakota with large increases in cases included Lincoln County with 44; Minnehaha County with 128; Oglala Lakota County with 30; Pennington County with 96;  and Todd County with 27.

The total confirmed cases across the state sits at 34,457 and almost 2,200 people have been hospitalized during the pandemic.

According to the Department of Health, 12.2% of staffed hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and 48.3% are non-COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 patients are occupying 22.1% of ICU beds across the state and non-COVID-19 patients are occupying 44.6%.

Staffed hospital bed availability sits at 39.5%, while ICU bed availability sits at 33.2%, according to the website.

Council mask discussion

Aberdeen’s city council briefly discussed how the process would work if the board were to consider a mask mandate and some on the board shared their thoughts at the end of Monday’s regular meeting.

The topic was not on the agenda and no official action or direction was taken following the discussion, but Councilman Clint Rux started the discussion by asking procedurally how it could be done.

City Attorney Ron Wager said since the state is under the Governor’s executive order declaring a public health emergency the council could draft and emergency ordinance or resolution about mask use.

But, Councilwoman Tiffany Langer said she’s been to Brookings and visited with business owners and others impacted there and said a mask mandate is difficult to enforce, but she does encourage mask use as it is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Councilman Rob Ronayne commended the mayor for joining with other mayors in South Dakota in signing a letter encouraging mask use and asked if the city could do more like wearing masks at meetings, wearing masks in public and, encouraging city employees to wear masks.

Mayor Travis Schaunaman said he believed in the spirit of the letter, which encourages personal responsibility, but also noted the majority of government actions in response to the pandemic have either fallen flat or made the situation worse.

Cases have risen, Schaunaman said, and hospitalizations are also up, but hospital officials have said they are handling the increase.

“I would also like to encourage people to be hygienic, responsible and respectful and follow the guidelines that is appropriate to their situation,” Schaunaman said.