South Dakota governor: “Our schools should be open”

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that schools in her state should be open.

“The science is very clear on schools. Our schools should be open,” she said during a news conference. 

Noem cited a number of reasons including mental and emotional health, the limitations of remote learning, child abuse and neglect, as well as data that shows “children are at far greater risk of critical illnesses from influenza than they are Covid-19.”

She quoted from Toronto Sick Kids saying, “The evidence is mounting that children may be less susceptible to this virus and may be less likely to transmit that virus to other. They also said the risks of infection and transmission in children, which appear to be minimal, need to be balanced with harms risks of school closure, which is impacting their physical and their mental health. On balance it is recommended that children return to schools.”

Noem reiterated her position that she is against a statewide mask mandate and again cited Toronto Sick Kids saying, “It is impractical for a child to wear a mask for the duration of the school day.”

She said the most efficient way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in children is for them to wash their hands.

The governor said teachers who have underlying health conditions have options like social distancing, masking, washing their hands or teaching online. She said she is discouraging schools from setting case thresholds “because they will be calling off school all the time.” Noem said schools should instead focus on hospitalizations as they consider when cancellation may be necessary.

Noem also said schools in her state can expect more state and federal dollars to better equip them as they re-enter the classroom in the era of Covid-19.

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