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Capital Journal Marketing Director Elise Wines and Editor Casey Junkins wear surgical masks at the office on Monday to help slow the spread of the virus that creates COVID-19.

Gov. Kristi Noem continues making national TV appearances to tout South Dakota’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically making note of her refusal to issue a “shelter-in-place” mandate, or to compel the covering of faces while in enclosed areas.

“South Dakota’s not like New York; it’s not like New Jersey,” Noem said during one of her several recent Fox News interviews.

“The mainstream media has spent many hours and nearly endless column inches attacking me for that, but countless South Dakotans have thanked me for trusting them,” Noem added in a recent statement.

Now, I can’t speak for other media outlets, be they print or electronic. However, I flatly deny that I, or anyone else at the Capital Journal, spent “endless column inches attacking” Noem for her COVID-19 response.

For the record, I believe Noem’s response has been, on the whole, quite appropriate.

Clearly, South Dakota does not have the population density to justify a shelter-in-place order for the entire state. And there is no disputing the economic benefits of not forcing people to stay home, as compared to making them do so.

As of this writing, 81 South Dakotans have died from COVID-19. While tragic, this loss of life is relatively mild compared to what Noem and Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon were predicting in early April.

The total number of coronavirus infections throughout the state has been 6,326, a number far short of the 265,000 infections Noem and Malsam-Rysdon anticipated. This calculation is based on Malsam-Rysdon’s April projection that 30% of the state’s 884,659 residents would eventually acquire the virus.

Still, Noem needs to accept the fact that just because her response to COVID-19 has been appropriate, it does not mean we are, so to speak, “in the clear.”

Take for example the Saturday morning notice from the department of health, warning that a person infected with COVID-19 spent time at two capital area bars in recent days.

According to health officials, the potential exposure events were as follows:

The Fieldhouse, 2013 Eastgate Ave., Pierre: From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 12;

The Chuckwagon, 112 N. Deadwood St., Fort Pierre: From 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on both June 13 and June 14.

“Due to the risk of exposure, customers who visited these locations during the specified dates and time should monitor for symptoms for 14 days after they visited,” the department’s news release states.

Fever or chills,

Cough,

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing,

Fatigue,

Muscle or body aches,

Headache,

New loss of taste or smell,

Sore throat,

Congestion or runny nose,

Nausea or vomiting, and

Diarrhea.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we at the Capital Journal closed our office at West Dakota Avenue to the public. We recently reopened to the public, but in light of the exposure events in both Pierre and Fort Pierre, staff members are being asked to wear face coverings while working.

As I have opined on multiple occasions, I can’t stand the mask. Not only is it uncomfortable on my ears, it makes breathing more difficult. Furthermore, because I wear eyeglasses while working, my lenses are quickly fogged.

Now, I wish I had spent more effort trying to get those darned contact lenses in my eyes a few years ago!

Nevertheless, I will continue to mask in the effort to prevent contracting and/or spreading COVID-19.

I hope South Dakotans recognize the threat the COVID-19 still presents. Even if one is relatively young and healthy — and therefore unlikely to struggle with the disease — he or she may transfer the infection to their parents or grandparents, who may not be as lucky.

Therefore, we at the Capital Journal urge you to continue using caution during this time.

As for Noem, I still believe President Donald Trump may be eyeing her as a running mate in this year’s general election.

And if it needs to be said, Noem has never referred to COVID-19 as the “kung flu,” as Trump did during his Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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