South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) reassured those who live in her state last week, telling them she doesn’t plan to institute a statewide stay-at-home order.
On Friday, she said up to 70% of South Dakotans might contract COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus. However, she’s believes a lockdown, though it might slow the spread of the illness, wouldn’t be worth the disruption it would cause.
“South Dakota is not New York City,” Noem said earlier in the week, according to the Argus Leader. “The calls to apply for a one-size-fits-all approach to this problem is herd mentality. It’s not leadership.”
The governor went on to make her case against implementing “draconian” measures in her state, arguing neither the state nor national constitutions allow such actions to be taken, referring to the total lockdowns in China and throughout Europe.
“Our constitution ensures that the citizen’s right is protected,” Noem explained. “I agree with the role of our government as set forth in our state and in our national constitution.”
While Noem has consistently urged South Dakotans to follow the social distancing and hygienic guidelines put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she has concluded individuals are “primarily responsible” for their own safety and wellbeing.
Citizens — not the government — “are the ones that are entrusted with expansive freedoms,” Noem said. As such, the people of South Dakota should be “free to exercise their rights to work, to worship, and to play.”
Noem believes the rural nature of South Dakota better situates her state to handle the COVID-19 epidemic. The state’s sparse population density, she explained, will help officials manage the spread of the virus “without needing to resort to some of the measures that we’ve seen in some of these major cities, coastal cities and in other countries.”
She said South Dakota, with a population of nearly 900,000 people, is expected to reach its peak sometime in mid-June, noting the state is preparing for as many as 5,000 hospitalizations.
The governor also encouraged residents to turn off the national news and tune into local outlets for news about their state.
“It’s so important not to turn on the news and look at NYC and think that that’s what Lemmon, South Dakota, is going to face in a month,” Noem said. “It’s absolutely not true.”