Brookings, South Dakota held a city council meeting on September 2 to see how citizens would feel about a citywide mask mandate for businesses. Over 200 citizens sat in the meeting, dressed in red and maskless, to protest the idea. While the mandate passed, Brookings is one of the only cities in the Dakotas that have any sort of mask requirement (with the exception of Native American reservations).

The leadership in both North and South Dakotas has hostile to COVID-19 precautions. Now, the Dakotas are leading the country in COVID-19 infection growth.

The large increase in cases can be blamed on the lack of executive action to prevent the spread of infection, as well as the recent openings of schools and universities and the continuation of mass events as though COVID-19 does not exist. Over 1,000 students from the four largest universities in the Dakotas have evacuated campus after potential exposure to the virus. Public schools are reopening with no mask requirement for its students. An annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, had about 250,000 attendees this year, most of whom were not wearing masks. Participants could even buy merchandise T-shirts that stated “Screw COVID.” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) recently bragged about using federal COVID-19 aid to promote tourism,

Despite the Dakotas leading the nation in the increase of cases over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers, neither state’s governor feels that they should do more to protect its citizens. North Dakota’s Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has endorsed the idea that personal choice of wearing a mask, though he has also been promoting masks through a social media campaign. Noem discourages masks completely and has been very vocal about her belief that the scientifically accepted fact that masks help decrease the spread of infection is a lie. She has no intention of introducing a mask mandate, despite an over 17% positive rate in COVID tests in her state last week.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, has been one of the country’s main sources of information on COVID. In a conversation with MSNBC, Fauci expressed his concern for the Dakotas’ rapid increase in infections, with an emphasis on fall weather and flu season approaching and the potential that they could boost COVID and death rates even higher.