Some More South Dakota Numbers – and a Success Story

After I published yesterday’s post, my husband sent me this story by the BBC about the state and about one particular city in that state that bucked the trend. Brookings, the fourth largest city in the state, mandated masks inside businesses and on public transportation starting in September. The city also launched one of the best information sites I’ve seen on their city website, with clear information for individuals and businesses. They didn’t close businesses or do any of the terrible things to the economy that Governor Noem objects to, although they required decreased occupancy indoors. Despite the governor, compliance has been high.

What has the result been? Before the mandate, Brookings County, including the city of Brookings, had the highest number of cases of the five most populated counties, at about three times the rate of infection of Lincoln, Pennington, and Minnehaha. Since the mask mandate, Brookings’s rate, while showing some of the same seasonal increases as elsewhere, has consistently kept its infection rate far lower than all those counties, at about half Minnehaha’s and Brown’s numbers:

It’s a little bit more difficult to get comparative death and hospitalization rates by county, since the overall strategy in many counties seems to be to ignore that the pandemic exists, but we can see from this snapshot from the Brookings website that Brookings, which has 2.5% of South Dakota’s population, has had cumulative hospitalizations equal to about 1.7% of the total and hospitalizations this week equal to 1.6%:

So even in this imperfect system, where people in surrounding counties can move freely in Brookings County—and people from Brookings County can go maskless in Minnehaha—living in Brookings reduces the risk that you’ll end up in the hospital from COVID by 30% (from about 0.55 to 0.39).  Cumulative deaths go from about 125 per 100,000 to 90 per 100,000, so living in Brookings also means you’re about 30% less likely to die from COVID-19. All for very little cost. I understand the arguments about the economic and psychological harm that is done when businesses are forced to close and people are prohibited from socializing, but only someone completely motivated by a political agenda—and completely unwilling to change his or her mind as new information becomes available—would rather people get sick and die than require them to wear a mask.

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