Statewide Mask Mandate Filed by Legislative Democratic Caucus

Pierre, SD (Jan. 27, 2021) – State Senator Reynold F. Nesiba (D15) has brought forward a statewide mask mandate (Senate Bill 125) to the South Dakota State legislature to protect the health and safety of all South Dakotans during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill was filed today, and awaits committee assignment from Senate President Pro Tem Lee Schoenbeck.

The bill uses language almost identical to mask requirements already in place in South Dakota, mirroring Sioux Falls’ ordinance. Since passing, the city has seen a sharp decline in hospitalizations, positive cases and percent positive test results. Sioux Falls is one of many municipalities across the state with a mask mandate in place, including Brookings, Vermillion, Yankton, Huron and seven of South Dakota’s nine reservations.

“Despite support from communities and health care organizations across the state, Governor Noem has resisted encouraging South Dakotans to wear masks, ignoring health experts and actively spreading false information about infection prevention,” stated Nikki Gronli, Vice Chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party. “She has failed to model the mitigation measures suggested by the CDC, refusing to wear a mask, maintain an appropriate distance from others and attending and hosting large gatherings. It’s too late for those we’ve lost, but we can still prevent further illness and disruptions to our schools and businesses.”

“South Dakota was well-positioned from the outset to weather COVID as best we could, but the governor chose to flaunt our advantages of population and geography and promoted zero personal responsibility,” said Sen. Nesiba. “Our economy has endured, thanks to our great local business owners and workers. What we need from the State is real leadership to prevent this virus from spreading. It’s time for us to provide cover for small business owners across the state who have been forced to implement policies on their own. It’s time for us to do our jobs.”

To date, there have been 1,739 deaths and 6,242 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in South Dakota. Every single loss of life to this virus is a tragedy. Every single hospitalization is an undue hardship on South Dakotan families and an added strain on our health care resources. Each day the numbers continue to grow.

“Absent any leadership from Governor Noem, our state legislature is compelled to take action,” added Sen. Nesiba. “With vaccine distribution making its way through our population, we are turning a corner in the fight against this pandemic. Let’s finish strong by taking reasonable precautions to ensure the least amount of damage during the closing months of this pandemic — by avoiding disruptions to businesses and schools, by keeping people healthy and by avoiding further preventable deaths. I urge my colleagues in both chambers of the state legislature to join me in passing this critical safety measure.”

Senator Nesiba will discuss this bill at the regularly scheduled press conference tomorrow at 9:30 am. 

For more information, please contact
Nikki Gronli, South Dakota Democratic Party Vice Chair at or 605-376-3337.