NPR gets some useful facts about the coroanvirus pandemic from South Dakotans. None come from Governor Kristi Noem.
After putting Noem’s Trumpist pandemic denial on record, NPR turns to South Dakota State University professor and epidemiologist Bonny Specker for some straight talk about the increasing risk we face from coronavirus:
“We’re seeing a much higher number of cases in the 60-plus age group” she says. “The hospitalizations are going to increase, so I don’t think it’s under control at all.”
Most concerning for South Dakota is the number of tests coming back positive, which has now climbed to around 25% – an indication that the state is not testing nearly enough people.
In North Dakota, the positivity rate is only about 7%.
Specker says there continues to be too much of a disconnect between the urgency of the situation and the public view of how the pandemic is affecting her state.
“I can get pretty discouraged about this whole thing,” she said. “I have to keep thinking that if we educate people they’ll listen to the science and not the politics and misinformation” [Will Stone, “As Covid-19 Cases Rise, Some Governors Resist Lockdowns, Mask Mandates,” NPR: Morning Edition, 2020.10.01].
Governor Noem has discouraged mask use and claimed that taking precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus is equivalent to “choking the life” out of businesses and families. One Brookings businessman laboring under his city’s first-in-the-state mask mandate says that requiring masks citywide has helped his business:
The day after the city passed the mandate, Michael Johnson, a chef and general manager of the Pheasant Restaurant and Lounge in Brookings, says his phone started ringing non-stop.
“With people saying ‘like, oh my gosh I feel safe to come out now. I was a little leery before,'” he says. “We started seeing faces of people we hadn’t seen.”
Johnson believes the mask mandate has made a big difference. His restaurant is busier because people are more comfortable being in public and know there are rules in places to help protect them from the virus [Stone, 2020.10.01].
We won’t save the economy from a pandemic recession by spending more government money on tourism ads and encouraging people to do things that increase the spread of infection. As Johnson is seeing in Brookings, when you take serious action to control pandemic spread, you make people feel safer about going out and doing business.
p.s.: Of the 15 most populous counties in South Dakota, Brookings County has the second-lowest rate of active cases per 10,000 population.
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