One Yankton city official said he is frustrated with what he sees as mixed messaging on the topic of masking.
During a media preview meeting for Monday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Nathan Johnson said that wearing a mask in public is still important and that the state is lagging behind.
“I saw some data recently that mask usage in the Dakotas is right around 45%, which is below the U.S. average of 50%,” Johnson said Friday. “I just want to remind people that we’ve heard the CDC and various other health experts (say) studies have shown that wearing a mask makes a huge difference if a majority of us are doing it. If it’s just the minority of us, the effectiveness of masks is not nearly as profound.”
He said that Gov. Kristi Noem has been setting the wrong tone for the state.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I think our governor has shown a lack of leadership on this issue. She has not worn a mask. She has refused to even acknowledge the efficacy of masks. That’s created, for the public, a lot of confusion about who’s telling the truth, who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t.”
Johnson’s comments came on the heels of another round of negative news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in South Dakota. On Friday, Yankton County recorded its fifth death and 16 new cases. The state as a whole recorded 772 new cases and five new deaths.
In a column sent to reporters Friday afternoon, Noem defended her approach to the pandemic.
“Recently, a prominent national reporter sent me a note that said: ‘Governor, if you hadn’t stood against lockdowns, we’d have no proof of just how useless they really have been.’ Given that many in the mainstream media have been attacking South Dakota for respecting our people’s freedom and personal responsibility, this note was incredibly encouraging,” Noem wrote.
The reporter mentioned was not named, nor was the note substantiated.
Johnson said this attitude has been creating confusion throughout the state.
“When you have this messaging chaos, (people) don’t know what to believe, and I don’t blame them for that,” he said. “It’s so important in situations like this that you follow the advice of the public health officials and the scientists that are doing the work.”
He said that he feels the governor has not been attentive to this advice.
“To hear the governor talk about the science, the data and that we’re following that — she’s clearly not,” he said. “I don’t think she’s respecting the intelligence of the citizens of South Dakota when she claims that she is following it and that we don’t know if masks work or not. To me, that’s been very disappointing and I think it would be very helpful if she would adopt the messaging of our CDC director and other public health officials that masks do help.”
Johnson added that the way forward is learning from the experiences of others.
“Until we all decide that we’re in this together, it’s going to be this mess that we’ve seen unraveling in the last month or so where the numbers just keep climbing and there’s no end in sight at this point,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. Other states have shown us it doesn’t have to be that way. Arizona used a mask mandate and they started getting things under control. We had time to learn from others, so let’s be smart about it and let’s actually put what others have learned into practice here so we don’t have to experience the same tragedies.”
The City of Yankton has no plans to implement any further health-related restrictions or mask mandates at this time.
During its regular meeting Monday, the Yankton City Commission will discuss the purchase of equipment for the City Commission meeting room to better enable remote viewing.
Additionally, the board will discuss a plat, two rezoning requests and issue a proclamation for the Home Builders Association.
The Yankton City Commission meets at 7 p.m. Monday at RTEC. Limited seating is available in the commission chambers and the meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube Live page.
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