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Noem says she’ll stick to her timeline after Trump guidance

April 17, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem said Friday that she’s anxious to see businesses up and running in South Dakota, but that it won’t be on President Donald Trump’s timeline.

The Republican governor called the White House’s guidance on reopening “helpful,” but she said she “will still make decisions in South Dakota that’s best for our state.” Trump is pushing states to quickly revive economic activity by following a roadmap he sent to governors.

Health officials expect infections in South Dakota to peak in mid-June. While Noem hasn’t ordered businesses to close or issued a stay-at-home order like most other governors have, she stressed following precautions to slow the spread of the disease for “several more weeks.” She said the state is already at Phase 1 of Trump’s plan, which calls for limited business activity.

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Noem’s approach has been questioned since the outbreak at a Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls. She said she wants to see the plant reopen as soon as possible and that next week, she will release the findings and recommendations of a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that toured the facility.

Noem said Smithfield was already implementing some of those precautions, calling the company’s actions “proactive.”

More than half of COVID-19 cases in the state are tied to the outbreak of the plant, with 634 employees and 143 of their close contacts testing positive.

Health officials announced 101 new South Dakota cases on Friday, bringing the state’s total to 1,411. They announced no new deaths, but seven people have died so far from COVID-19.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

As Republican officials at the state and local level have scrambled to address increasing rates of infection this week, they have been accused of either doing too much or not enough.

The South Dakota Democratic Party criticized Noem for not issuing stronger orders to protect people vulnerable to the coronavirus. She has also faced online petitions and calls from the state’s largest group of doctors to issue a stay-at-home order.

But Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, a Republican, backed away from issuing a citywide stay-at-home on Friday after pushing for one earlier this week. His proposal drew a small protest outside of City Hall from conservative activists who felt stay-at-home orders were a violation of their civil rights and hurt business.

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Check out more of the AP’s coronavirus coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak