“We wore masks all the time. We wore masks, we stayed at home, ”Chris Bjorkman told CNN. “We were more worried about me. I have several underlying conditions. He did not do it. ”
But she survived. Her healthy 66-year-old husband did not.
She took him to hospital, but he was rushed out of state a few hours later. “He was flown to Marshall, Minnesota, because they said the Sioux Falls hospital was full at the time. ”
John Bjorkman is one of 644 people who have died in South Dakota – where the per capita rate of Covid-19 is higher than any other state in the country. The seven-day positivity rate is also alarming – nearly 60% – higher than in any other state in the United States, which has seen more than 11 million people infected and more than 245,000 killed by the virus.
“When they flew me here, I literally didn’t know… if I would see the next day,” John said through tears on a video call shortly after being transported. “It makes me nervous. Literally it could be December, January, before I get up, play with my grandson a bit. “
As John fought for his life in the hospital, his wife tried to speed up renovations to the house, so he had a comfortable place to recuperate. He had received Remdesivir and had started to get better. He was even brought back to South Dakota as his condition improved.
He died on October 20.
“I never thought he wouldn’t make it,” Bjorkman said, choking back tears. “I always thought he was going to come home… I knew he might be in a wheelchair or something, but I just wanted him to come home. ”
She now retains the memories of her late husband as she sits in what was supposed to be their home.
“I just miss him, I miss all the things he did,” Bjorkman said. “He was a very positive person… He was always happy, ready to go, ready to conquer the day. I mean, it was just John. “
Bjorkman said her husband always helps people, especially children in the schools where he worked.
“When he was in school, he always went out of his way for the kids and everything. Find them tennis shoes or glasses if their parents couldn’t afford them, ”she told CNN. “He was a good person. ”
Bjorkman told CNN she was speaking out because she knew if John was still alive he would always try to help people by telling them how deadly this virus can be.
“People have to take this very seriously. And a lot of people don’t, and we just need some kind of leadership in this state to get us through this time, ”she said. “Nobody tells us what to do and I think some people need it… You have to tell them to wear a mask. ”
“People need to wear masks and they just need to distance themselves socially,” said Bjorkman, that people should limit their interactions, their social distancing and where to find a mask because “you don’t know who will survive. . “
South Dakota has the highest positivity rate in the United States
More than 62,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 3,500 have been hospitalized, according to the state’s Covid-19 website.
But as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, rural areas are the hardest hit despite declining populations and density.
According to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rural Americans are dying at rates 3.45 times higher than Americans living in metropolitan areas.
As of Nov. 13, according to CDC data, the seven-day death rate per 100,000 population for Americans living in major metropolitan areas was 0.2, while in rural areas it was 0.69. The national average seven-day death rate is 0.33.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has never issued a stay-at-home order, and as people continue to get sick and die, she will not ask for a mask.
Over the summer, the state welcomed thousands to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which has since been linked to dozens of virus cases and at least one fatality as well as a nearly maskless Trump rally. in July.
Governor Noem’s office did not respond to a CNN request on Monday and declined to join New Day for an on-air interview Monday morning.
But a few weeks ago, while attending a Trump rally, the governor claimed that the people of his state were happy. “The only reason you know who I am today is because the Liberals have been busy kicking me in the head for all the decisions I have made for my people in South Dakota. But let me tell you, my people are happy. are happy because they are free. “
Frontline health workers say hospitals are reaching capacity
Although the governor believes that a mask warrant is not necessary, health workers told CNN they believe this may be the only way to curb the uncontrolled spread of the virus.
Former U.S. Air Force veteran Dr Shannon Emry wants a mask warrant to help mitigate the rapid rise in cases she has seen.
“Our governor misled his constituents. From the start, she played down the dangers of the virus, downplayed the importance of wearing a mask and it really undermined people’s trust in their medical community, ”Emry said. “And in doing so, it puts people at risk. ”
Emry said the lack of restrictions left the state powerless to control the deadly virus.
“Our hospital systems across the state are already at full capacity, are already at this critical state,” she said. “Healthcare workers are clearly exhausted and what is devastating to them is that we don’t see an end in sight. There is no end date, there is no timetable.
Jodi Doering, an emergency room nurse, told CNN’s Alysin Camerota on Monday morning that she saw many people in her condition in denial of their Covid-19 diagnoses and were often angry in the last moments of their lives when they could talk. to loved ones.
“Even if positive results come back, some people just don’t believe it,” she said, adding that sometimes they will insist that it is something else like the flu, a cold or even lung cancer.
“It’s hard and sad because every hospital, every nurse, every doctor in this condition sees the same things. These people get sick the same way, you treat them the same, they die the same. And then you start over, ”Doering told CNN. “It just makes you mad and sad and frustrated. ”
Doering wants people to recognize the cost and severity of this virus in South Dakota and take steps to protect themselves so they don’t end up in hospital, where “it might be too late.”