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South Dakota governor defends her pandemic approach

October 5, 2020 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Monday she provided a blueprint of how to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic without heavy-handed government mandates, telling lawmakers during a special session that she has done a good job in managing the pandemic.

Noem asserted that her approach, including her refusal to issue a stay-at-home order, was the right one, despite a surge in cases in South Dakota, which had the second-highest positivity rate of any state over the past two weeks as of Monday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

“The mainstream media told us that these steps had to be taken to slow the spread of the virus. Day after day and night after night, they insisted that every decision I was making was wrong,” Noem said. “That I was foolish to trust my people. And I was even sillier to respect the oaths I took. They told me I should shut my state down.”

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The Republican governor also said her health care team team began to study COVID-19 long before it reached the state and that they ”turned to the science, the facts, and the data, to get a handle on what was happening on the ground in South Dakota.”

“Our initial models showed a very troubling situation: We could expect as many as 600,000 people sick. And at our worst point, we could have up to 10,000 South Dakotans in the hospital,” Noem said.

Even with the surge in cases in South Dakota, only 10% of the state’s hospital capacity is taken up by COVID-19 patients, she said.

The federal government sent South Dakota $1.25 billion dollars from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Noem said she has spent “countless hours” on the phone and in Washington asking for flexibility in how South Dakota spends the money.

“I’ll keep pushing Congress to provide greater flexibility, especially as it relates to this deadline. And they may come back and pass something before the upcoming election, or even in a lame duck session,” the governor said. She said that the Treasury Department allows states to spend up to $500 dollars per student to help schools get back to normal, “so we set aside $75 million for schools.

“It’s my hope today that we can set aside personal agendas and reject ideological fights. The people of South Dakota are counting on us to work together, to take this finite amount of money and help as many of our citizens as we can within Treasury’s parameters.”