SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — It doesn’t appear the July 3 Mount Rushmore fireworks event attended by President Donald Trump turned into a hotbed of infections, either from South Dakotans or out-of-state tourists, South Dakota health officials said Thursday.
Most of the people who attended the Mount Rushmore gathering, which featured a fiery speech from Trump, came from outside South Dakota. As thousands gathered, mostly unmasked and without social distancing, some warned the event could lead to a spike in infections.
But almost two weeks after the event, officials from the South Dakota Department of Health said they have not seen an uptick in Pennington County, where the event was held. They also said they have not received notifications that tourists who came from other states have reported infections connected to the event.
Health officials reported 42 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with four deaths from the virus. Two men and two women died. One was in the 30s age range, two were in their 60s, and one was over 80 years old. They came from Minnehaha, Oglala Lakota, Union and Todd counties.
Over the last two weeks, the number of daily new cases has remained mostly stable statewide.
But as other regions see surges in cases, national retailers and elected leaders —Republicans and Democrats — have called for requirements to wear masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus infections. Gov. Kristi Noem has cast doubt on the recommendation from public health experts.
Noem’s Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the department encourages people to wear masks when they are in close contact with people for 15 minutes or more. But she said not to expect a mask mandate from the Republican governor.
Noem has commented that the science on wearing masks to prevent the spread of infections is “very mixed.” The debate has played out at school board meetings across the state this week as districts considered how to reopen in the fall. Many are moving ahead without plans to require masks in school.
But one of the state’s largest health care providers is pushing back against doubts on the effectiveness of masks and is releasing a communications campaign to encourage people to wear them.
Avera Health said in a statement, “Wearing face masks, maintaining physical distancing and washing hands all are proven to help slow the spread and keep people safe.”