Tag: Mask

 

US should consider national mask mandate for the winter, former FDA commissioner writes in op-ed

As the US reports its second-highest day of new Covid-19 cases amid the continuing fall surge, a former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration says it may be time for a national mask mandate.



Alice Arnold wearing a hat: Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurses look on during coronavirus testing outside the Salt Lake County Health Department Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)


© Rick Bowmer/AP
Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurses look on during coronavirus testing outside the Salt Lake County Health Department Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote the mandate could be “limited and temporary.”

“A mandate can be expressly limited to the next two months,” Gottlieb wrote, adding that it’s easier to wear a mask in the winter than the summer. “The inconvenience would allow the country to preserve health-care capacity and keep more schools and businesses open.”

With deaths expected to rise this winter, policymakers will have to make moves to slow the spread, Gottlieb wrote. There already is no support for reinstating the stay-at-home orders from the spring.

If 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved in the United States through February, according to data released Friday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

“If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday.

Gottlieb wrote the concern about needing fines to enforce the mandate leading to confrontations with police isn’t necessarily true.

“States should be able to choose how to enforce a mandate, but the goal should be to make masks a social and cultural norm, not a political statement,” he wrote. “Mandating masks has become divisive only because it was framed that way by some politicians and commentators.”

Gottlieb was appointed FDA commissioner by President Trump and served from May 2017 to May 2019. He is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC.

Saturday saw 83,718 new Covid-19 cases, just 39 cases shy of the all-time record that was reported Friday. Already, national cases total more than 8.6 million and 225,212 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

“We’re at a dangerous tipping point right now,” Gottlieb told Margaret Brennan Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We’re entering what’s going to be the steep slope of the curve, of the epidemic curve.”

Social gatherings and family events moving indoors to avoid the colder weather is largely to blame for the high rates of spread, officials said over the weekend.

In Maryland, the governor said this week family gatherings were the No. 1 source of transmission in the state, followed by house parties. In North Carolina, health officials reported its highest daily case count Friday and said they continue to see clusters “from social and religious gatherings.”

At least 35 states report rise in cases

The Florida Department of Health on Sunday reported 2,385 additional coronavirus cases and

Covid-19 Live Updates: Fauci Suggests a National Mask Mandate

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Reports of new infections poured in at alarming levels on Saturday as the coronavirus continued to tear through the United States. Six states reported their highest-ever infection totals and more than 76,000 new cases had been announced by evening, one day after the country shattered its single-day record with more than 85,000 new cases.

The country’s case total on Saturday, which was sure to rise through the evening as more states reported data, was already the fifth highest in a single day. Case numbers on weekends are often lower because some states and counties do not report new data, so the high numbers on Saturday gave reason for alarm.

“This is exploding all over the country,” said Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, whose state is among 16 that have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch. “We’ve got to tamp down these cases. The more cases, the more people that end up in the hospital and the more people die.”

Officials in Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois announced more new cases on Saturday than on any other day of the pandemic.

Rural areas and small metropolitan regions have seen some of the worst outbreaks in recent weeks, but by Saturday, many large cities were struggling as well.

The counties that include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Anchorage and El Paso all set single-day records on Saturday. Across the country, hospitalizations have grown by about 40 percent since last month, and they continued to rise on Saturday. Around Chicago, where new restrictions on bars and other businesses took effect Friday, more than twice as many cases are now being identified each day than at the start of October.

“This moment is a critical inflection point for Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said.

States in the Midwest and Mountain West have been reporting some of the country’s most discouraging statistics, but worrisome upticks are occurring all over. New cases have emerged at or near record levels recently in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and New Mexico.

“Over the next week, two weeks, three weeks, please be extremely conservative in deciding how much time to spend outside of the home,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said Friday as she imposed new restrictions on businesses. “The visit to friends can wait — it’s not worth your life, or theirs.”

Experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount, especially in rural areas where medical facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.

The high case count in part reflects increased testing. With about one million people tested on many days, the country is getting a far more accurate picture of how widely the virus has spread than it did in the spring.

But public

Fauci says it may be time for a widespread mask mandate

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it is a “great idea” for there to be a uniform mask mandate, as US coronavirus cases surged on Friday.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN’s Erin Burnett, “If people are not wearing masks, well then maybe we should be mandating it.”

During the interview, Fauci acknowledged some might say it would be hard to enforce the mandate.

“But if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandated it and everybody pulls together and say, ‘We’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it,’ I think that it would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly,” he said to Burnett.

On Friday, US confirmed coronavirus cases reached a record high for a single day with more than 83,000 infections.

President Trump has minimized the severity of the recent spike in cases, and said on Twitter that the increase is due to testing being “way up.” Experts have cautioned about how an increase in cases could happen in the fall.

Democratic challenger and former vice president Joe Biden said on Friday he would push for national mask use. In his plan, he would talk to governors to make mask wearing mandatory in their states, and if they refuse, then he would go to mayors and county executives.


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Idaho county defies doctors’ warnings, ditches COVID-19 mask mandate

Health board members in Idaho’s third most populated county voted to repeal a local mask mandate despite pleas from medical experts and a worsening COVID-19 outbreak in the state, The Associated Press reports. 

The Panhandle Health District board voted 4-3 to rescind the face mask mandate in Kootenai County on Thursday, even as health officials warned about overwhelmed hospitals and staff shortages. The mandate was put into effect in July but was never enforced by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. 


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On Wednesday, Kootenai Health, a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, announced it was 99 percent full and may have to transfer patients to centers as far away as Seattle. 

“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members ahead of the vote. 

Lee introduced doctors who testified before the board about how masks work to slow the spread of the virus and the serious health threats COVID-19 poses to those who become infected. 

But the board went on to drop the mask mandate anyway, with one board member saying he personally doesn’t care if residents wear masks.

“If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” board member Walt Kirby said, according to AP. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway…I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.” 

Meanwhile, another board member denied the existence of COVID-19 altogether. 

“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?” he told medical professionals who testified, according to AP. 

Health board member Glen Bailey acknowledged masks work in curbing the spread of the virus but introduced the motion to rescind the requirement and proposed to make it a recommendation instead. 

“I agree we have a problem with this virus, but at the same time I object to the mandate the board passed because it restricts people’s right of choice and ability to comply or not comply under penalty of law,” Bailey said, according to the Spokesman-Review

The vote comes as Idaho is experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began. The state reported nearly 1,000 new cases Thursday and has confirmed a total of more than 56,600 with at least 553 deaths. 

Public health officials have emphasized for months the importance of face coverings in the fight against the coronavirus crisis, and most states and local governments have mandated masks be worn in public. 


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Idaho county health board overturns mask mandate despite hospitals hitting capacity

An Idaho county health board on Thursday voted to overturn a mandatory mask mandate just one day after the area’s main hospital reported that it was at 99 percent capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The board struck down the mandate in a 4-3 decision Thursday, with the county now recommending residents wear masks without imposing fines for noncompliance. 

According to the Spokesman-Review, the mandate was first implemented in Kootenai County in July following a spike in COVID-19 cases. However, the outlet reported that the mandate was largely ignored and not properly enforced by local authorities. 

Health board member Glen Bailey had proposed ending the mandate, arguing that it “restricts people’s right of choice and ability to comply or not comply under penalty of law,” according to the Spokesman-Review. 

The decision came after officials from area hospital Kootenai Health on Wednesday issued a press release saying that it was almost at capacity, adding that nearby hospitals were also almost full and would not accept new patients. 

The press release added that based on tests at Kootenai Health, the county is “seeing the highest rate of positivity since the start of the pandemic,” and that it was “looking at hospitals beyond our normal transfer area to see what is available” to accommodate additional patients. 

“Our hospitals, health district and emergency responders are relying on our community for support,” the statement read. “The best way forward is to keep up with efforts that will flatten the uptick in cases in our region.” 

The press release then outlined several actions it recommended for people to help stem the spread of COVID-19 in the area, including wearing face masks around people outside of one’s household, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding public areas and cleaning frequently touched surfaces often. 

Amid public backlash on the health board’s decision, the Panhandle Health District issued a public statement alerting people that its coronavirus hotline “is mainly staffed with volunteers that have nothing to do with the Board’s decisions.”

“They manage their fair share of angry callers with grace and patience, but please direct comments about the board meeting to the board,” the notice said.

Idaho has been one of several states experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reporting 950 newly confirmed cases on Thursday, bringing the state’s confirmed case total to 56,600. 

Kootenai County is now in the Panhandle Health District’s highest risk coronavirus category. According to The New York York Times COVID-19 database, the county had 96 newly confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 3,724 infections and 48 deaths.

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Real-time pandemic data from Carnegie Mellon’s CovidCast shows why you should wear a mask

For all 50 states plus D.C., this chart plots the percentage of state residents who say they wear a mask in public all or most of the time (on the horizontal axis) and the percentage who say they know someone in their community with virus symptoms (on the vertical axis).

Take Wyoming and South Dakota, for instance, in the upper left-hand corner of the chart. Roughly 60 to 70 percent of state residents report frequent mask use, as shown on the bottom axis, which puts them at the bottom for mask rates. They also have some of the highest levels of observed covid-19 symptoms, approaching 40 and 50 percent.

Now, note what happens as you move across the chart. States farther to the right have higher rates of mask use. And as mask use increases, the frequency of observed covid-19 symptoms decreases: More masks, less covid-19.

Let’s pause a minute to talk about where exactly this data comes from. Ideally you would want it to be from something like a random-digit-dial survey, the type typically used in public opinion polling, which with enough participants would produce a sample of each state that’s representative of its population and demographics. But the cost of running one such survey for all 50 states plus D.C. would be enormously prohibitive — to say nothing of doing so on a daily basis, which is necessary to produce the kind of real-time data of interest to epidemiologists.

“If Facebook’s users are different from the U.S. population generally in a way that the survey weighting process doesn’t account for, then our estimates could be biased,” cautioned Alex Reinhart, a Carnegie Mellon professor of statistics and data science who works on CovidCast and wrote a book on statistical methods. “But if that bias doesn’t change much over time, then we can still use the survey to detect trends and changes.”

He also cautioned that the old saw of “correlation doesn’t equal causation” applies here as well.

“There could be other explanations for the correlation,” he said. “For example, states that had worse outbreaks earlier in the pandemic both have higher mask usage now and more immunity.”

And, he added, “if people say they’re not wearing masks, they may not be taking other protective measures either. So perhaps what we see is a combination of mask usage, other social distancing behaviors and perhaps other factors we haven’t measured.”

Nevertheless, the chart is particularly useful in the context of all the other high-quality evidence showing that masks reduce the transmission of the coronavirus and other respiratory diseases. There’s good reason to suspect, in other words, that rates of mask use are driving at least part of the relationship seen in the chart above, even if the data can’t prove that definitively.

For people living in states that are driving the latest spike in coronavirus cases, the takeaway is clear: Wear a mask when you go out in public.

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Idaho county drops mask mandate despite warning of overwhelmed hospital

Boise, Idaho — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and looking at sending people as far away as Seattle for care, members of a regional health department board voted Thursday to repeal a local mask mandate.
 
“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.

The hospital in Coeur d’Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.

kootenai-health-covid-53.jpg
A Kootenai Health nurse works on a computer while caring for a patient on the COVID-19 isolation ward at the hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in an undated photo provided by Kootenai Health. 

Kootenai Health/Handout


“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Lee said.
 
He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.

But the board voted 4-3 to end the mask mandate. Board members overseeing the operations of Idaho’s public health districts are appointed by county commissioners and not required to have any medical experience.
 
Board member Walt Kirby said he was giving up on the idea of controlling the spread of coronavirus.
 
“I personally do not care whether anybody wears a mask or not. If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” Kirby said. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway… I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.”


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Another member, Allen Banks, denied COVID-19 exists.

“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?'” he told the medical professionals who testified.
 
Similar scenes — with doctors and nurses asking officials for help, only to be met with reluctance or even open skepticism — have played out across the conservative state. Idaho is sixth in the nation for new coronavirus cases per capita, with the average number of confirmed cases increasing by more than 55% every day over the past two weeks.
 
Still, Republican Gov. Brad Little has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate or limit crowd sizes beyond requiring social distancing at large events and in businesses, which is seldom enforced. Instead, Little has left it up to local health departments and school districts to make the tough decisions that sometimes come with blowback from the public.


Coronavirus cases surge in the Dakotas

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In the southern city of Twin Falls, hospital officials told health board members this week that they too were

Hospitals are full but some parts of Idaho refuse mask rules

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and looking at sending people as far away as Seattle for care, members of a regional health department board voted Thursday to repeal a local mask mandate.

“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.

The hospital in Coeur d’Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.

“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Lee said.


He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.

But the board voted 4-3 to end the mask mandate. Board members overseeing the operations of Idaho’s public health districts are appointed by county commissioners and not required to have any medical experience.

Board member Walt Kirby said he was giving up on the idea of controlling the spread of coronavirus.

“I personally do not care whether anybody wears a mask or not. If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” Kirby said. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway. … I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.”

Another member, Allen Banks, denied COVID-19 exists.

“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?’” he told the medical professionals who testified.

Similar scenes — with doctors and nurses asking officials for help, only to be met with reluctance or even open skepticism — have played out across the conservative state. Idaho is sixth in the nation for new coronavirus cases per capita, with the average number of confirmed cases increasing by more than 55% every day over the past two weeks.

Still, Republican Gov. Brad Little has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate or limit crowd sizes beyond requiring social distancing at large events and in businesses, which is seldom enforced. Instead, Little has left it up to local health departments and school districts to make the tough decisions that sometimes come with blowback from the public.

In the southern city of Twin Falls, hospital officials told health board members this week that they too were in danger of being overwhelmed, with one out of every four hospitalized patients sick with COVID-19. The region’s hospitals, operated by St. Luke’s Health System, have been forced to postpone non-emergency surgeries and ship patients elsewhere.

“I want to be very clear: Punting those decisions is saying

Mont. pursues action over mask use noncompliance

HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says the state health department is pursuing legal action against several businesses in northwestern Montana for not following a mask mandate and other restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement came Thursday as the state reported 932 newly confirmed coronavirus cases. That was far above the previous one-day high of 734.

The new cases include 173 in Yellowstone County and 112 in Flathead County, where the governor says businesses face legal action.

State officials also have launched a new website to allow people to submit complaints against businesses and events that are not complying with health directives.


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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— France extends curfew to 38 regions because of coronavirus surge

— African health officials expect WHO distribution of rapid virus tests

— Oxford vaccine trial continues amid death report

— Britain offering financial help for bars, pubs and restaurants struggling because of restrictions due to the coronavirus.

— Czech Republic enters second lockdown to avoid health system collapse. New measures include closing stores, shopping malls and hotels.

— Photographer in Dubai providing free photo shoots to laid-off expats forced to leave the skyscraper-studded Persian Gulf city because of the pandemic.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROSWELL, N.M. — Officials at a military junior college in New Mexico say the school is under quarantine after more than 60 cadets and employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Those who tested positive are being kept isolated.

The quarantine at the New Mexico Military Institute is expected to last until Oct. 29. Parents will be allowed to visit only in special situations or emergencies, and officials say all campus facilities are being closed to the public for five weeks.

The closure comes as the state struggles with a surge in coronavirus infections. Wednesday marked another record day for daily confirmed cases, with 827, and state health officials reported an additional 669 cases Thursday. That brings the statewide total to nearly 39,380 since the pandemic began.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana will allow more high school football fans to attend games in open-air stadiums beginning Friday if the events are in parishes with low numbers of coronavirus cases in the last few weeks.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that stadiums will be allowed to have crowds at 50% capacity in parishes where 5% or less of coronavirus tests have come back positive in the previous two weeks. Stadiums have been capped at 25% capacity.

The governor says 26 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes meet the criteria to boost crowd size.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said Thursday that he remains opposed to mandatory mask orders despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he encourages people to wear one.

The Republican lieutenant governor announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he sought a test

Alabama official with COVID opposes mask mandate

Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said Thursday that he remains opposed to mandatory mask orders despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he encourages people to wear one.

The Republican lieutenant governor announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he sought a test after learning someone in his Sunday school group had COVID-19.

“I have always encouraged mask-wearing, and I wear one in my daily life, Ainsworth said in a statement, adding that: “At the same time, I believe in personal responsibility and think everyone has the right to make their own choices regarding their health.”

Ainsworth has been critical of the state’s COVID-19 response under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. In March, he criticized what he said at the time was the state’s slow response to prepare for a possible “tsunami of hospital patients.” But he has also been critical of the state’s mandatory mask order. He said last month that “masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.”

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— France extends curfew to 38 regions because of coronavirus surge

— African health officials expect WHO distribution of rapid virus tests

— Oxford vaccine trial continues amid death report

— Britain offering financial help for bars, pubs and restaurants struggling because of restrictions due to the coronavirus.

— Czech Republic enters second lockdown to avoid health system collapse. New measures include closing stores, shopping malls and hotels.

— Photographer in Dubai providing free photo shoots to laid-off expats forced to leave the skyscraper-studded Persian Gulf city because of the pandemic.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

Tallahassee, Fla. — Florida plans to more closely scrutinize deaths attributed to the coronavirus, as the state Department of Health notes some people listed as COVID-19 fatalities died months after testing positive.

The state will not backtrack to reexamine the more than 16,000 deaths attributed to the virus, but rather take a closer look at deaths going forward, said Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking Thursday.

And the state won’t immediately discount those who tested positive for coronavirus and died weeks afterwards, recognizing the virus may have caused damage that contributed to the death, he added.

Florida reported more than 5,500 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, raising the seven-day average in daily reported cases to about 3,300. That’s about 1,000 more per day since the beginning of the month.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has insisted South Dakota is excelling in its handling of the pandemic, although the state surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases and matched an all-time high for deaths reported in a day.

The state ranks second in the country in new infections per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There were about 1,036 new cases per 100,000 people in South Dakota, meaning that about one in every 97 people in the state has tested