TenHaken: Mask mandate ‘will likely pass’ tonight

Nov. 17, 2020

The Sioux Falls healthcare systems have asked the city for a mask mandate and one likely will pass tonight, Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

COVID-19 cases are “growing at ‘an unacceptable rate,” he said at a news conference today, and are “putting a tremendous strain on our healthcare systems.”

The ordinance that failed last week when TenHaken cast the tie-breaking vote will be back on the City Council agenda tonight and will be amended to take away any penalty for violating the mask requirement. Masks will be required in public places where physical distancing is not possible, with some exceptions.

Those under the age of five would not have been required, and people seated to eat or drink or consuming food or beverages would not have to wear them, as well as those receiving medical care or with medical conditions that prevent masking.

Hospital bed capacity is “very, very limited,” TenHaken said, adding the goal is to keep capacity for “when there are heart attacks, when there are critical surgeries.”

At one point yesterday, there were 11 open intensive care unit beds across more than 30 Avera hospitals, said Dr. David Basel, vice president for clinical quality with Avera Medical Group.

“We are pretty much at historical levels,” he said, calling the patient volume higher than any point in 25 years.

“Our surge plans are in full effect right now. We’ve more than doubled the number of ICU beds we have available at Avera McKennan,” he said, adding ventilators are in shorter supply and more are on order.

Surgeries are being deferred when possible and there are 160 patients at home on supplemental oxygen “that we’re able to safely keep out of the hospital,” Basel said. “We’ve taken a lot of effort but it’s time to take that next step because the numbers continue to increase. What we’re doing right now is not enough.”

Sanford Health also is well into its surge plan, chief medical officer Dr. Allison Suttle said.

“We will continue to increase our capacity as the needs of our communities continue to increase,” she said. “I love the fact that we’re looking at bending the curve … that is what will give our healthcare workers a little more breathing room.”

The health systems are ready to start delivering vaccines, she added.

“We’ve got the capacity to store up to a million doses of this vaccine,” Sutton said. “Hope is coming and the opportunities are coming.”

There also is an IV-based treatment being offered for COVID-19 early in the illness, prior to hospitalization for those who might be at risk of complications.

“There’s now a medication we can give at an earlier time point,” Suttle said, adding that will start to be deployed this week.

“But it still all boils down to personal behavior and personal responsibility.”

She encouraged people to make changes in the next 30 days — everything from cutting down trips to the grocery store to making arrangements for Thanksgiving without a large group gathering.

Businesses urge to make adjustments, pledge support

The City Council also will consider a resolution tonight to launch a 30-day effort to encourage multiple behaviors designed to slow the spread of the virus.

The goal is shifting the dialogue away from one mitigation measure and toward everything the community needs to do including physical distancing and “some other things we’re not talking about near enough,” TenHaken said.

That includes encouraging people to monitor their physical and mental health.

“There is a mental fragility in our community like I’ve never seen,” he said, saying there is significant tension and anger and an emotional wave.

“They’re seeing it in the healthcare systems as well,” TenHaken said.

Businesses are encouraged to use remote work environments for the next 30 days when possible. The city of Sioux Falls will be moving more people to remote work, TenHaken said.

“We need to have those isolated work environments during this time.”

The city launched a Safer Sioux Falls pledge for businesses today that allows them to show their support for practicing COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including wearing facial coverings and other recommended precautions.

“Every business that signs the pledge will be added to our online listing,” said Jeff Griffin, president and CEO of the Greater Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, adding his organization has been asked by citizens how they can support businesses taking mitigation measures.

“This list will serve as the resource for those consumers and visitors,” he said, while adding the program is open to all businesses. Those who take the pledge will receive promotional materials. To learn more, click here.

It has been challenging to message or mandate the appropriate behavior needed from the community, TenHaken said.

“We’re going to keep trying,” he said. “My preference has always been messaging over mandates. There’s not one activity, there’s not one business type, there’s not one sort of gathering that’s more or less immune to the spread right now.”

Things like break room lunches and dinner parties are “all areas where COVID doesn’t just take a break,” he said. “It’s the totality of that behavior change that is really, really critical right now.”

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TenHaken: Mask mandate ‘will likely pass’ tonight

The Sioux Falls healthcare systems have asked the city for a mask mandate and one likely will pass tonight, Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

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