Whether it is a prank, a political statement, or simply promotion of public health, the faces on the bronze statues representing South Dakota’s past governors are now shrouded in surgical masks.

“Do your part: Wear a mask,” states a message written on one of the masks. In the middle of some of the masks is a circle with “COVID-19” crossed out.

Though the project is not quite complete, the statues represent each of South Dakota’s governors, going all the way back to Gov. Arthur Calvin Mellette in 1889. They are found at various stations throughout Pierre.

According to South Dakota Trail of Governors Foundation President Rick Jensen, the organization has nothing to do with the masks being placed over the statues’ faces.

“No one knows who did it,” Jensen told the Capital Journal on Friday. “We will probably take them down eventually.”

The South Dakota Department of Health is recommending people wear masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, though face coverings remain optional and are not required.

“Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities,” the department’s website states. (https://doh.sd.gov/news/coronavirus.aspx).

Jensen said he understands some have strong feelings on the issue of wearing masks for COVID-19, which is why he said the foundation is treating the issue carefully.

“I don’t see a problem with it, as long as it is done in good taste,” he added of the masks being placed on the statues.

Jensen said private donations fund each statue, with a donor or donor group contributing $72,000 for one governor, limited to four donors per statue.

For more information on the trail, go to https://www.trailofgovernors.com.

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