Brookings, S.D. – April 6, 2020 – Following new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Brookings Health System asks community members to wear cloth face masks while in public settings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  

“The CDC created this new recommendation based on evidence-based research,” said Infection Preventionist Bunny Christie. “The cloth mask recommendation doesn’t protect the wearer, but instead prevents an unintentional spread of the virus from the wearer to others. Recent studies show some individuals with COVID-19 do not show symptoms, and those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before symptoms appear. This means the virus can inadvertently spread between people interacting in close proximity.”

The CDC guidelines state the cloth face covering should cover an individual’s nose and mouth and be worn in public settings such as grocery stores and pharmacies where social distancing techniques are hard to maintain. The CDC also adds the face covering is not a substitute for social distancing and recommends people stay at least six feet away from one another. 

“Individuals can make cloth face coverings from common materials they have on hand, such as an old t-shirt or bandanna. It should include multiple layers of fabric and fit snugly against the side of the face,” said Christie. “It can be sterilized by cleaning in a wash machine. In addition, when people remove their face mask, they should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth and wash their hands immediately upon removal.”

Brookings Health has included a link to the CDC’s guidelines for creating cloth face coverings on

Facts About COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. It was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in several locations internationally, including the U.S. 

According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 experience mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Complications may include pneumonia in both lungs. People at greatest mortality risk from COVID-19 include the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, COPD, underlying heart and lung diseases, or other immune compromising conditions. Children are more likely than adults to present with mild symptoms. The best prevention is to avoid exposure to the virus. 

Triage Guidance for the Public

To help local healthcare teams care for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, Brookings Health requests the public to follow triage guidelines: 


  • If you have questions about COVID-19 and no symptoms (fever, coughing, shortness of breath), please call the South Dakota Department of Health hotline, 1-800-997-2880. 
  • If you have mild symptoms and are stable, call your primary care provider FIRST to determine if you’re eligible for either influenza or COVID-19 testing. For the Avera Clinic, please call 1-877-AT-AVERA or (605) 697-9500. For the Sanford Clinic, please call (605) 333-4444.
  • Seek care immediately if you have symptoms (fever, coughing, shortness of breath) and fall in to one of these categories: 
    • 65+ years old
    • Under 5 years old
    • Pregnant
    • Have a chronic medical condition like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or other immune compromising condition
  • If you do not fall into the above categories, seek medical attention if your illness is worsening, including:
    • A fever of 100.4°F or greater
    • Difficulty breathing
  • STAY AT HOME except to receive medical care.
  • If you have severe symptoms, seek immediate medical attention at Brookings Hospital’s Emergency Department. Call Brookings Hospital at (605) 696-9000 FIRST before arriving.
  • Severe symptoms include: 
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

How the Public Can Prevent Infection

In addition to wearing cloth face masks, Brookings Health encourages the public to remain calm and use scientifically proven infection control methods.

  • Practice good respiratory etiquette and hygiene. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze in your upper sleeve
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Practice social distancing when out in the community by trying to stay six feet away from other people. Do not hug, kiss, shake hands or make other unnecessary contact. 
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surface areas, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, etc. every day. COVID-19 is easily cleaned by household cleaners or soap and water.
  • Stay at home if you’re sick and self-isolate to prevent the spread of illness.

The public can find the latest information on COVID-19 at The page also includes links to the CDC and the South Dakota Department of Health websites. 

About Brookings Health System

Brookings Health System, located in Brookings, South Dakota, includes a 49-bed hospital, the 79-bed The Neighborhoods at Brookview nursing home, Brookhaven Estates senior living apartments, Yorkshire Eye Clinic & Optical, and medical clinics in Arlington, White and Volga, South Dakota. It is a non-profit, city-owned facility that offers the community a full range of inpatient, outpatient, emergency and extended care services. Brookings Hospital provides local access to doctors in Brookings and offers robotic da Vinci surgery and Mako robotic-arm assisted procedures, making it one of the premier rural community hospitals in South Dakota. For more information about the services offered at Brookings Health System, please call (605) 696-9000 or visit us on the Web at