To the Editor:

Our fair city, along with the rest of South Dakota and America, is experiencing a profound public schizophrenia.

On the one hand, our local newspaper the Mitchell Republic, in its last two weekend editions published front-page warnings about dangerous surges in the deadly COVID-19 pandemic nationwide. One story spotlighted the worrisome struggle of nurses in the Mitchell area to avoid infection while trying to save the sick and dying from the disease. Another reported the ouster of Sioux Falls’ Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, for poo-pooing the efficacy of wearing facts masks to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. Another article related how a local church was displaying memorials honoring people who died from the virus. Yet another described how South Dakota cities were wrestling with how to mandate masks in an unnecessarily politicized environment.

Meanwhile, the nation’s top public health experts on TV and in print media are by now literally begging American citizens to wear masks, social distance and avoid large groups of people — but, most especially, to wear masks.

On the other hand, Gov. Kristi Noem endlessly extols the supposedly Midwestern virtue of personal freedom at any cost, and the right of ourselves and our loved ones and neighbors to do whatever we want, irrespective of potential, even likely, consequences (in this case, to public health). Her message is, wear a mask … if you like. Then Sen. John Thune, now a top leader in the U.S. Senate, weighed in with a very disingenuous opinion page piece in the Republic: “When social distancing is not possible, please wear a mask,” he advised.

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No. Experts emphatically recommend that we wear face masks all the time, except perhaps at home among household members.

Why would our elected leaders say otherwise and put us all at mortal risk? Please, please, please don’t say it’s because that’s what failed 2020 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump would like.

Rick Snedeker

Mitchell