“The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety,” Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota, said in a public statement regarding Covid-19 in April.
Governor Noem also added that the state and national constitutions “prevent us from taking draconian measures much like the Chinese government has done.”
Just Google How to Do a Haircut?
As notes John Fund in NRO, the pandemic has brought out the worst in many governors.
- Andrew Cuomo (NY) held effective news conferences that at first burnished his image, but he’s now ducking responsibility for sending virus patients back into nursing homes where the disease promptly spread.
- Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan) is now seen as a scold who on the one hand has kept pot dispensaries open but, on the other, last week told residents who’ve gone three months without hair care to just “Google how to do a haircut.”
Still Ranching the Family Land
Among the governors whose reputation has clearly been enhanced is South Dakota’s Kristi Noem. The 48-year-old Republican, who still ranches her family’s land, didn’t issue a shelter-in-place lockdown order for her state.
But that didn’t mean South Dakota didn’t take clear steps to control the virus. Noem issued an executive order in March urging the elderly and those with preexisting conditions to stay home and encouraging employees to practice social distancing and to telework if possible.
One place where social distancing wasn’t easily possible was the Smithfield Foods pork-processing plant in Sioux Falls. It was declared part of essential infrastructure by President Trump because it alone accounted for between 4 and 5 percent of pork production in America.
As Bret Schundler wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Even states with lockdowns have exempted food production as essential, and with good reason. If governors shut down food plants, disease today would be followed by hunger tomorrow.”
When plant workers became part of a large coronavirus cluster in April, with more than 300 workers falling ill and two eventually dying, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pounced on South Dakota for not issuing a stay-at-home order.
At one point, Maddow addressed the camera mockingly, as if speaking directly to the governor, stating, “You are aware that it’s infectious, right? That it’s a communicable disease?”
But Noem kept calm. South Dakota had had 5,438 COVID-19 cases in all so far (1,038 are active) and a total of 65 deaths.
“I always tried to be dispassionate and follow the science, facts, and data,” Noem told John Fund in an interview last month.
“One-liners on social media or TV don’t contribute to any solutions.”