Photo by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is one hell of a study in how the Republican Party works in the era of Trump. Her constant insistence on downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, while acting in direct opposition to public health recommendations, has made her a hero in the Trumposphere. She's such a brave advocate of "personal choice" and liberty that she's gone from being relatively unknown nationwide to being a serious contender for a 2024 presidential bid. Oh, and if you care about such trivialities, she's also presiding over a state with one of the highest per-capita COVID-19 infection rates in the USA, which thanks to American exceptionalism means "the world."

How bad is it? As of this week, more than 60,000 South Dakotans have tested positive. Thursday, the state "reported 2,019 infections on 2,968 people tested for the first time for a 68.1% positivity rate" — among new cases, at least. Add in people who are tested repeatedly, like healthcare workers, and the overall positivity rate is still just short of 30 percent. And how's this for a success Noem can brag about in future GOP debates?

The state now has had 60,716 cases and 18,722 of those still active. One in every 47 people in the state is currently battling an active COVID-19 infection. [Emphasis added — Dok Zoom]

Infecting your population to own the libs.


Tim Walz, the Democratic governor of next-door Minnesota, blamed Noem's non-existent public health measures for an outbreak in Minnesota that forced him to announce new restrictions on business operations and the size of public gatherings. At a presser earlier this week, Walz singled out August's Sturgis Motorcycle superspreader festival as a source of infections, noting that lots of Sturgis attendees appeared to have brought the virus home with them. "Absolutely unnecessary," Walz said. He went on to berate Noem for refusing to issue a mask order, and to add he was particularly annoyed by Noem's frequent campaign stops at Trump rallies around the Midwest:

"And this one's a little bit personal because the governor of South Dakota has taken to traveling to other states and criticizing others—now at a time when that state's hospital capacity is overwhelmed," Walz said.

The Daily Beast notes that a Noem spokesperson cheerfully explained Walz had it all wrong because in the aggregate, South Dakota's hospitals are merely at 66 percent, which is nice bit of statistical bullshit, because a statewide percentage flattens out local shortages. And then there's this fun factnugget from the AP: South Dakota health officials acknowledged this week that their tallies of available hospital beds include unused capacity in neonatal intensive care units. Yeah, shame on the governor of Minnesota for overstating the crisis in South Dakota.

Much of the Daily Beast piece focuses on yet another possible superspreader event Noem hosted, the "Governor's Buffalo Roundup" at Custer State Park, attended by some 20,000 maskless spectators who stood in line for hours and packed together to watch cowpokes round up bison. We won't go into too much detail except to bow to special correspondent Michael Daly's wordsmithing here:

[The audience] looked on as the buffalo were examined and vaccinated, since herd immunity does not work even for herds.

Bravo, sir.

But the Orwell Prize for Doublespeak really goes to Noem's unnamed spokeperson, who not only corrected Tim Walz by pointing out there's plenty of room for COVID patients (provided some can fit in an incubator), but also offered an extremely creative interpretation of comments by US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who visited a testing site in Pierre, South Dakota, on Tuesday:

"I'd also point you to the surgeon general's comments yesterday that South Dakota shouldn't have a mask mandate," the spokesman said.

That is not quite what Adams said. He devoted almost the entirety of his remarks to the necessity of wearing a mask, stating states should do "whatever it takes," noting that studies show mandates work.

And here is what Adams did say about South Dakota and masks:

"You don't have a mask mandate here. But what I would say to people of South Dakota is you really shouldn't need a mandate to do the right thing for your community, your family, and your friends."

See? He literally said the words "you shouldn't need a mandate," so it's perfectly fine to ignore all that other stuff.

With aides like that, we can only assume Kristi Noem has a bright political future ahead of her. Or at least that the spox will soon be getting a plum job as a video editor at Fox News.

[Daily Beast / Rapid City Journal / AP / Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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