South Dakota house speaker recovering from COVID-19

In this Jan. 9, 2020, file photo, South Dakota House Speaker Steven Haugaard speaks at a breakfast hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in Sioux Falls. Haugaard told the Argus Leader for a story published Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, that he spent the last two weeks dealing with a severe case of COVID-19 that sent him to the emergency room twice this month. “It’s been the most devastating stuff I’ve ever had in my life,” the 64-year-old Sioux Falls attorney said. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP, File)

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – A top South Dakota lawmaker said he had a severe case of COVID-19 that sent him to the emergency room twice this month.

Republican House Speaker Steve Haugaard told the Argus Leader for a story published Tuesday that he spent the last two weeks dealing with the disease, which is spreading rapidly in South Dakota.

“It’s been the most devastating stuff I’ve ever had in my life,” the 64-year-old Sioux Falls attorney said.

Haugaard is at least the second South Dakota legislator to be diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Rep. Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, was among the first South Dakotans to die from the coronavirus.

Haugaard and other lawmakers convened in Pierre earlier this month for a special session to authorize Republican Gov. Kristi Noem to spend more than a billion dollars in federal pandemic relief funds. But Haugaard couldn’t say where he contracted the virus because he’d been around different people in different settings in the days before he developed symptoms, he said.

The speaker said his fever finally broke Friday, and he intends to return to work this week.

Meanwhile, the mayor of South Dakota's largest city said it's time for citizens to step up and keep each other safe.

“Wear a dang mask when you’re indoors,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said at a briefing Monday, the newspaper reported.

Sioux Falls had 2,447 active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, with 140 patients hospitalized, according to city data.

TenHaken expressed frustration with the politicization of the virus, calling it “ridiculous” and “embarrassing” that things like masks have become Democratic or Republican issues instead of public health issues.

“If you wanna live in a state that gives you freedoms,” TenHaken said, “that comes with an expectation of responsibility, and I need this region to do more.”

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