Election celebrations and protests concern health officials as COVID-19 cases spike

Weekend rallies concern health officials
Weekend rallies concern health officials 03:05

Experts are saying the election has taken eyes off what's the most important story in the country now: the coronavirus pandemic. Coast to coast and in between, tens of thousands of people celebrated and some protested after Joe Biden was projected to win the presidential election.

They were often standing shoulder to shoulder, and while many were wearing masks, almost no one was socially distancing, "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud reports.

In South Dakota, Dr. Benjamin Aaker, president of the South Dakota State Medical Association, said people "haven't been very great about doing the important things like social isolation and wearing masks."

Aaker pointed to troubling images of gatherings within his state like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August that hosted nearly 500,000 people. But, he said with large gatherings like that, and protests earlier this summer, it is hard to prove they caused further spread of virus. 

"Any time when you put that many people in close proximity, you do run the risk of that transmission," he said.

Despite that unknown, positive COVID-19 cases are now rising in 26 states, with 41 states seeing a rise in hospitalizations. The spread is surging particularly in the Great Lakes, Plains, and Mountain West regions.

North Dakota currently leads the nation in death rate per capita over the last 30 days. South Dakota is second. With the Republican governors in both states refusing to issue mask mandates, families of those affected are urging action.

"If you go out, just take those precautions," said Kassi Mlcak, whose father John Bjorkman was a beloved school administrator. 

Bjorkman spent 30 days in a South Dakota hospital before dying on October 20. Mlcak and her mother, Christina, say the state must do more to protect people like John.

"If I could have saved my father by wearing a mask, I would have done it. And I think most people would do the same," Mlcak said.