U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., of Fort Pierre, believes masks used in the battle against COVID-19 can be manufactured in South Dakota, rather than China.

While continuing to blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic and its related problems, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., now says America must stop relying on Asia for the masks used to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Rounds, a Fort Pierre resident, also highlights that 3M has two facilities in South Dakota at Aberdeen and Brookings. 3M is the nation’s leading manufacturer of N-95 respirators.

“It has become clear that the U.S. cannot and should not rely on our adversaries like China to supply critical medical equipment such as (personal protective equipment),” Rounds said. “With COVID-19 continuing to put a strain on our hospitals and clinics, access to PPE—especially for medical staff—is incredibly important.”

Rounds joined U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to introduce the U.S. MADE Act of 2020 to decrease U.S. dependence on China for PPE.

“Our legislation seeks to provide opportunities for American businesses to make PPE materials here at home so we can stop relying on China for masks, shields and respirators,” Rounds added.

“One of our biggest takeaways from coronavirus is that we really need to reassess our medical supply chain,” Capito added. “This legislation makes critical changes that will lessen our dependence on other countries like China when it comes to manufacturing testing agents and PPE materials so we can deliver resources quickly and efficiently, while also supporting our own economy.”

Graham said COVID-19 is a “painful wake-up call” that America relies too heavily on imported goods in the face of a national crisis.

“The Chinese grip on this critical supply chain must come to an end and this legislation accomplishes that goal. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that South Carolina leads the way when it comes to getting the medical supply chain out of China,” Graham added.

Noem TechIn another manufacturing matter related to COVID-19, Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday announced a plan she calls “UpSkill,” which endeavors to help workers dislocated because of coronavirus receive new technical training.

“South Dakota is poised to bounce back from COVID-19 stronger than ever before. For those looking for a new career path as we get back to normal, UpSkill is here to help you,”Noem said Monday.

Noem said UpSkill participants will earn credentials at little or no cost at one of South Dakota’s four technical institutes: Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown; Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell; Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls; and Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City.

Participants must be eligible for re-employment assistance through DLR and be deemed a dislocated worker. More information can be found at

“This educational program will provide a clear pathway to stable careers,” Noem added of UpSkill.

Dislocated workers in South Dakota are encouraged to apply for the UpSkill program. After completing an UpSkill program, participants can enter a new career field, advance in their current field, or continue their education.

UpSkill is funded through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding.

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