South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Very Proud Of State's 'Republican Leadership,' Truly Massive Infection Rate
North Dakota and South Dakota are both experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks far more severe than the rest of the country. The explanation isn't complex: Neither state ever actually shut down, and their Republican governors refused to issue stay-at-home orders or mandate mask wearing. It's as if no one told them about the coronavirus.
As Vox reports, this abdication in leadership gave the virus free rein through "bars, restaurants, parties, celebrations, rodeos, rallies, and other large gatherings." The most catastrophic of the large gatherings was the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, held over 10 days in early August. Researchers projected that the rally might've produced as many as 260,000 new cases nationwide, resulting in a total medical price tag of $12.2 billion. Republicans conveniently forget Sturgis when lamenting the property damage from riots in Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
While we're at it, let's steal their chart too!
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem often made the rounds at Fox News, where she was congratulated for her stand back and do nothing approach to COVID-19. In April, Laura Ingraham raved over how Noem hadn't imposed lockdowns that would “devastate her state's economy and ruin people's lives," and the governor still refused to "cave to the Left's COVID demands" in August.
NOEM: The story and that needs to be told, is that I trusted my people, they trusted me, they took personal responsibility for dealing with this virus, and we are doing very well.
Not only do we have one of the lowest death rates, we've got about 40 people in the hospital today statewide, our infection rates are low, our job losses are low, our economy is doing better than virtually any other state, and I think it's a real testimony to what could have been possible in other states, but those governors just made the wrong decisions.
A lot has changed in three months. Noem hasn't gotten any smarter, unfortunately, but the situation in her state is bleak. Noem was the fabled grasshopper kicking back and enjoying her summer while calling her ant-like colleagues in other states suckers for making responsible choices.
South Dakota had a natural advantage as a state with a total population less than Charlotte, North Carolina. Social distancing is almost the default condition. She didn't have to shut down major industries in her state, like live theatre in New York. She just needed to gently suggest residents wear masks and chill with the bars for a while. Instead, she encouraged superspreader events, including Donald Trump's Fourth of July klanbake at Mount Rushmore. She said she was "proud" to host the Sturgis rally and appreciated the boost to the local economy when her fellow Americans visited South Dakota and gave everyone coronavirus.
Right now, a reported 40 percent of COVID-19 tests in South Dakota come back positive. The advised maximum is just five percent, so it's likely that the outbreak is even worse than figures state. Last week, South Dakota reported the second-highest COVID-19 death rate out of all states, as well as Washington DC and US territories. Only North Dakota was worse. There, Gov. Doug Burgum finally called for reducing business capacity as cases spiked in October, but while he's running around locking barn doors, he still won't actively recommend or enforce closures.
South Dakota has at least 40,730 confirmed cases with 989 new ones on Tuesday. There's been a 41 percent increase over the past 14 days. Put into context, that is roughly equal to the total cases in Oregon, which has a population of four million. Oregon's Multnomah County, home of the anarchist jurisdiction Portland, has fewer than 10,000 cases. Its population is around 800,000 people who live in 466 square miles. South Dakota's population is 884,000 people over 77,184 square miles. They still can't stop spreading the 'rona.
Bonny Specker, an epidemiologist at South Dakota State University and my new favorite person, dragged Noem when describing the escalating debacle in the state.
SPECKER: Federal and many state leaders have not implemented mandates or reinforced [public health agencies'] recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus. In South Dakota, the governor had the information needed to minimize the impact of this virus on the health of South Dakotans, but she ignored that information as well as national recommendations from the CDC.
This ongoing disaster hasn't humbled Noem. She's following Trump's lead and just lying about the virus's impact. Last week, Ingraham asked Noem if she'd “gotten any apologies" from all critics who are astounded that she sucks so bad.
NOEM: No, no apologies, Laura. But my people are happy.
Wow, that's some North Korean propaganda shit.
NOEM: They appreciated the fact that we didn't shut down their businesses. We allowed them to be flexible, take care of health and protect the public while still taking care of their customers and their employees as well. So we're doing really good in South Dakota. We're managing COVID-19. But also our economy is thriving.
NOEM: I think people are really recognizing that leadership has consequences. And what we're doing in South Dakota is Republican leadership.
Can't argue with her there. Fortunately, we're just six days away from showing Noem what we think of Republican leadership.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."