Noem: Guidance will stand after lawmakers reject new powers
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that she’ll continue her current guidance for business restrictions after lawmakers rejected her request to let the state health secretary impose mandatory measures.
Lawmakers met into the early-morning hours Tuesday and approved several measures, including postponing local elections from mid-April until June, and waiving state requirements on schools due to the coronavirus.
But they declined the Republican governor’s request that the state health secretary and county officials be granted the power to close businesses. Several lawmakers said it should be the governor who orders such closures in an emergency.
When Noem was asked afterward whether she would issue stay-at-home orders or close businesses if necessary, she said instead she would stick to her executive order recommending that businesses limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer.
Noem has faced criticism from the state’s largest group of doctors for not doing more, but she has said it’s not clear in state law that she has the power.
The governor has encouraged cities to enforce business restrictions as they see fit. That has made vocal critics of the mayors of South Dakota’s largest cities. Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken told lawmakers that mayors have been “hamstrung” by the lack of a statewide mandate.
Legislators dialed in remotely to the marathon session Monday and Tuesday, and the deteriorating condition of one of their colleagues underscored the gravity of the crisis. Rep. Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, was hospitalized Monday in critical condition with the virus.
Several bills passed unanimously, while conservative lawmakers amended several others to limit the powers they gave the governor during the crisis, including making sure that she can’t halt gun purchases or delay the June 2 primary election any further if she deemed it necessary.
Health officials said the state has 108 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than doubling the number of cases since Thursday. So far, 44 people in South Dakota have recovered; one has died.
Noem said the state has received supplies for a new test that can identify COVID-19 in minutes.
An elder care facility operated by one of the largest health care providers in the state has uncovered some cases. Avera Health said two residents at its Prince of Peace Retirement Community are in isolation after testing positive. Separately, Sanford Health said a doctor at its Watertown clinic has the virus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.