There aren’t a lot of people in South Dakota, so it seems like there are connections between every small town and every family. It’s the US’ seventeenth largest state at 77,121 square miles, with a population around 900,000. That’s similar to the urban population of Liverpool spread across a massive area; not many residents for a large expanse, but in some ways, we’re like one community. Everyone seems to know someone who knows you. With so few people in the state, the number of Covid-19 cases has caused pain in most households. We’ve had more than 94,000 people diagnosed with the virus, meaning more than 10 per cent of the state has had it. We all know someone who died and someone who lost their job. The death toll continues to mount. As of mid-week, it was at 1,667, according to the South Dakota Department of Health. On December 21, Dr. Michael Elliot of Avera Health, along with Sanford Health, one of the two healthcare giants that dominate medical treatment in the state, said the pandemic was still rampaging across South Dakota, with 12.4 deaths per 100,000 people. “In the last seven days, South Dakota has had the highest daily reported death rates per 100,000 population of the United States,” Dr. Elliot said. Healthcare experts have been imploring people to wear masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing. South Dakota is, incidentally, one of very few states without a mask mandate; along with North Dakota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona and Alaska. The role mask-wearing plays in controlling the spread of coronavirus remains up for debate. As 23,000 more Americans died from the coronavirus last week, setting a record for the third straight week, rates rose in eight states, compared to 40 the previous week, according to Reuters. The top five (Wyoming, Virginia, Maine, Washington and Connecticut) all have mask mandates. The three states with the most new cases (California with 277,058, Texas with 153,843 and New York with more than 106,980 new cases) also require masks in public.