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Amidst Stunning Coronavirus Death Toll, Two New Legislators Advocate Masks in Capitol

175 South Dakotans died of coronavirus over the last seven days. That’s more than South Dakota’s annual average count of suicides.

819 South Dakotans have died of coronavirus this year. That’s 2.5 times the number of abortions performed last year on South Dakotans in South Dakota. Translation: if you profess “pro-life” values and are working to end abortion, you should be working 2.5 times as hard to end coronavirus. Stay home for Thanksgiving, wear a mask at the grocery store—gee, those simple pandemic-prevention measures are easier than loading up the van and setting up your booth of fetus dolls at the Brown County Fair….

While the Governor and too many public figures showing no leadership and sending messages counterproductive to public health, some Republicans are showing common sense and vowing to mask up during Session to prevent the spread of coroanvirus. Listen to rookie Representatives-Elect Will Mortenson (R-24/Pierre) and Erin Tobin (R-21/Winner):

Now those sound like real pro-life legislators.

Mortenson, a frequent flyer in the SDGOP insider/lobbyist class, put his pro-public-health message in an op-ed in the Pierre paper last week:

As a newly-elected state representative, I’ll be wearing a mask to the Capitol when I report for duty. I may be a distinct minority in that decision. I will likely subject myself to furrowed brows or an occasional scoff, but I don’t mind.

…First, the voters of District 24 elected me to do a job. Folks in central South Dakota sent me to the Capitol to represent them during a 10-week session. If I contract COVID-19, I won’t be allowed within spitting distance of the Capitol for two weeks while the virus runs its course. I was hired to do a job. I owe it to my bosses (the voters) to make every effort to ensure I’m there, every day, to do the job.

Second, my wife and I are expecting a baby girl in the next couple weeks. God willing, the little gal will be healthy and about six weeks old when session starts. If I want any chance of Shuree allowing me near the child at that tender age, I need to assure her that I’ve taken every precaution to keep us away from the virus.

Finally, I can’t know Reason 1 and Reason 2 for everyone else, and I will not presume that others’ reasons are any less valid than my own. I don’t know who is immuno-compromised or has diabetes. I don’t know who is living with someone with a lung condition. All I know is: I will do my part to contain the spread in the Capitol [Will Mortenson, “Why I’ll Wear a Mask to Session, Even If I’m the Only One,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2020.11.16].

Mortenson isn’t totally on the right page for pandemic prevention in Pierre. He lets his Pierre/lobbyist pedigree cloud his vision on the safety and efficacy of conducting Session remotely:

The 2021 legislative session will go forward in our Capitol. It needs to. We cannot shut out the public by holding the session remotely. We need to do the job the voters sent us to do. This year’s session will be unlike any in our history, but South Dakotans will make it work. We’re resilient and we use good common sense. Now, more than ever, we’ll need it [Mortenson, 2020.11.16].

Holding Session remotely would not shut out the public. Holding in-person meetings will require blocking off seats and allowing fewer citizens into the meeting rooms and galleries than during non-pandemic Sessions, shutting out much of the usual participation. Many citizens will eschew coming to the Capitol altogether, out of fear of spreading or catching coronavirus in such close quarters surrounded by lots of people doing lots of talking/droplet-spreading. Conducting Session remotely and inviting more telephonic/Zoom-o-tronic committee testimony would actually open the process to more of the public who, unlike Mortenson, have to drive an average of three hours to get to Pierre. And it would reduce the number of contacts in Pierre that could spread coronavirus around the state.

But at least Mortenson and his fellow up-and-coming rookie Tobin are sending the right message about the public health precautions we must take if we must gather in public. If we want to stop losing over a hundred South Dakotans a week, we need to mask up, every one of us. Governor Noem, listen to your new legislators, and protect Will’s baby girl and all the members of the public who will be interacting with legislators: wear your mask in the Capitol!


  1. Jake 2020-11-23 10:09

    Good for him! There may be a some with an ‘R’ behind their names to show some sense, mmm?
    I think perhaps the whole state would be better off this year if we cancelled the legislative session entirely for our self-protection against the bloviating Trumpists spreading Covid and BS throughout the state coupled with their attack on voter-passed laws.

  2. Bob Newland 2020-11-23 13:12

    A SoDak Republican in a mask is like a gilded sow’s ear.

  3. mike from iowa 2020-11-23 18:26

    drumpf/noem hoax total so far today….

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    The only masking wingnuts seem to want is to mask over their incompetence and negligent stoopidity.

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