Not going away anytime soon

“He told me he would make it worth it
Again, how many times have I heard this
Kinda funny, but I wasn’t even nervous”
“You Make Me Sick” — Pink

Off her debut album “Can’t Take Me Home,” Pink released “You Make Me Sick” as the third single of the album. While it barely reached the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, it did rank as a top 10 single in both Great Britain and New Zealand. The song is probably best known for its inclusion in the 2001 movie “Save the Last Dance.”

The song’s lyrics revolve around a person struggling to say no to a “hook up” and then her self-reaction afterward, reflecting that she gave in to the physical desire yet again. She compares her inability to control her physical impulses to a sickness.

Three months into my time with the Plainsman, the first COVID-19 infection was diagnosed in South Dakota.

Within days, the first death in the state due to the virus was recorded and the virus took hold in Beadle County, with the county becoming the first location of an “outbreak” of the virus in the state.

Initially, there was no debate about the truth behind the virus or even argument about protecting yourself or your loved ones from becoming infected. This was a novel virus; we didn’t have a playbook.

Since, the response has changed.

Heck, our own governor has attempted to alter what she actually said regarding the virus multiple times for campaign purposes and (assumed) national publicity credibility with certain factions of her own party.

Conspiracy theorists have waged war on response to the virus, the vaccine, and even the origin of the virus itself - despite significant and overwhelming evidence presented to the contrary for each conspiracy presented.

The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) in 2020 was led by Kim Malsam-Rysdon, and Malsam-Rysdon led a very transparent DOH that was ranked consistently by publications like the New York Times and Washington Post as one of the most accurate in reporting COVID-19 numbers to the public.

When it came time to roll out the vaccine, Malsam-Rysdon put together a plan for the state that focused on ensuring those at highest risk and those who worked in emergency services and that would have the highest exposure to the virus would have access to the vaccine first.

Each state was in charge of its own vaccine roll out, however South Dakota received national praise for the management of the system on C-SPAN in early 2021.

However, Malsam-Rysdon was made the face of the virus in the state, and she began receiving significant harassment by conspiracy believers in the state, especially those who believed strongly in conspiracies about the vaccine. She eventually left her post with the DOH in December of 2021.

Since she left, the information released to the public from DOH has been altered multiple times, to the point where the Plainsman no longer even publishes monthly updates due to the unreliability of the numbers presented by the state.

Data now shown on the state’s COVID-19 website display numbers that do not show the entirety of the virus’ impact on the state since March 2020, especially at the county level.

The denial of the impact of the virus and the desire to push away all changes that were made to protect from the virus has led to one of the worst RSV seasons in years, as the state saw the flu and RSV nearly disappear in the 2020-2021 season, the first season with COVID protocols taken during flu season. Both have come back, with strength, feasting on those who want to deny common protection strategies.

The vaccine conspiracy has infiltrated the South Dakota legislature as well. While she was ultimately censured by the South Dakota Senate after an investigation and lost her committee assignments, Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-District 30) is still going to be voting on measures affecting the entire state after badgering an employee of the Legislative Research Council about vaccinating her child, among other things.

The virus hasn’t gone away. It’s still alive and well.

In fact, overseas right now, a new variant that scientists worry is akin to a cross between the Omnicron and Delta variants is working its way across Asia. Yet, we don’t see the travel restrictions that we did in 2020…let alone 2021 or 2022.

Heck, God forbid anyone be asked to put a mask on during a plane ride now. The tirade will be monumental!

Last weekend, the Dakota Oyate Challenge was in town. I had the opportunity to cover the hand games competition on Friday morning, and while photographing the competition, an elder came to me and asked if I knew what I was watching.

I admitted that I did not, and she kindly explained the hand signals that were part of the dancing, singing, and drumming going on. I informed her that I was an adoptive father to four children with indigenous blood, and she and I chatted about opportunities for them to learn their culture.

I then asked her about the fact that roughly a third to half of all the youth participating in the hand games were wearing a mask, a significantly higher rate than you would see most anywhere else in South Dakota.

“Our young ones know to care for all,” she explained. “Coming to an event like this is a great thing, but it does expose the young ones to things that they often don’t experience at home in the air.”

“At home, getting some of our gray hairs (as she tussled her own silver hair) to be able to get vaccinated is difficult,” she added. “So when these go home, they don’t want to risk their grandparents or great-grandparents.”

It’s such a simple thought. Caring for one another, respecting one another, and taking care of one another.

Trusting scientists.

However, we’ve politicized things and made it such a mess that for the first time since November, we’re now going to be presenting numbers for the area. As you can see, COVID is still alive and well.

No matter how much we may want to think it’s gone, it’s still making us sick.

South Dakota

Positive: 274,676 (+10,489 since Nov. 1, 2022)

Deaths: 3,152 (+93)

Ever Hospitalized: 12,376 (+478)

Currently Hospitalized: 54

Beadle - 
Positive: 5,517 (+299), 
Deaths: 64 (+1)
Clark - 
Positive: 951 (+54)
, Deaths: 12 (+1)
Hand - 
Positive: 664 (+34), 
Deaths: 13
Jerauld - 
Positive: 481 (+27), 
Deaths: 21 (+1)
Kingsbury - 
Positive: 1,542 (+73), 
Deaths: 27 (+3)
Sanborn - 
Positive: 671 (+35), 
Deaths: 8
Spink - 
Positive: 1,680 (+156)
, Deaths: 38 (+2)