In a fairly unorthodox post for a governor’s feed, Noem tweeted out “graphs the media won’t share with you” on Thursday. The screenshots of the data publicly available via Google show surges in Covid-19 infections in New York and California – states that have imposed some of the nation’s most stringent restrictions on businesses and residents to stop the spread of the virus. Noem then apparently suggested that the stats were proof the strict measures were not working.
“California and New York locked down, closed businesses and mandated masks,” Noem said. “They did the ‘right’ thing. And still, cases are climbing.”
Graphs the media won't share with you.
California and New York locked down, closed businesses, and mandated masks. They did the "right" thing. And STILL cases are climbing. pic.twitter.com/pk1VtJ6075
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) December 10, 2020
South Dakota had its own surge in cases earlier this fall, peaking in early November. Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the state also rose in October and November but have been in decline for the past week.
Noem has been a target of mainstream-media criticism after she refused to enact the same Covid-19 restrictions that have killed businesses and infringed personal freedoms across the US and around the world. Most governments have said such measures are needed to save lives and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.
At the same time, the Republican governor’s stance has evoked some fierce support, with one follower telling her on Thursday that she was being attacked for “providing the most valuable data about how everything they are doing is a placebo. If they can force you into enacting any of their rules, they eliminate the data that says they are wrong.”
They keep attacking you because you're providing the most valuable data about how everything they are doing is a placebo. If they can force you into enacting any of their rules, they eliminate the data that says they are wrong.
— Ryan Lawrence (@RyanOfKalamazoo) December 10, 2020
It was no wonder, then, that Noem’s tweet also struck a nerve with supporters of strict mitigation measures. One such observer responded to Noem by tweeting out a chart showing that for one recent seven-day period, South Dakota had the highest per-capita Covid-19 death rate in the US.
I can do this too! The problem with your graph is it includes the entire pandemic. Early in March, we knew little about what can help save lives – when NY and NJ were suffering. Now, we fucking know what works and SD refuses to act. RECENT data below. pic.twitter.com/84cORElKcS
— Boyce Way (@Boyce_Way) December 10, 2020
Still, over the duration of the pandemic, South Dakota ranks ninth nationally in deaths per capita, and its death rate so far is 33 percent lower than that of New Jersey and 25 percent below New York’s.
Noem’s approach of letting citizens decide their own health precautions is nothing new. “We talk about the government’s role in a situation like this in dealing with a pandemic,” she told reporters in June in a discussion about mask mandates. “At this point, frankly, I’m getting more concerned about how neighbors are treating neighbors.”
The governor has been pressing her Covid-19 arguments all week, starting with a Wall Street Journal op-ed article on Monday in which she defended her strategy of providing information on the pandemic to citizens and asking them to take personal responsibility for their health. She said governments must balance Covid-19 policies by taking into account people’s physical, mental and emotional health, along with their economic livelihoods and personal freedoms.
Noem suggested that media outlets wrongly attacked her as ill-informed, reckless and a Covid-19 “denier,” claiming that data shows that states with harsh restrictions haven’t fared better: “As we continue to see spikes move throughout the country, the course of the virus doesn’t seem to be quantifiably different in the states that, according to the media, did everything right.”
That point was again lost on her critics, such as biology professor Carl Bergstrom, who argued that South Dakota is “suffering dreadfully” as Noem refuses to implement “control measures.” He offered no explanation as to why states with strict restrictions are also suffering, however.
South Dakota is suffering dreadfully from Covid right now, and Gov. Noem's refusal to support control measures has contributed substantially. In today's @WSJ she has published an editorial claiming that her state is actually doing well.
This is false.https://t.co/1B5DHTa0YJ
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) December 9, 2020
Noem was back at it on Tuesday, tweeting that the media had ignored Covid-19 spikes in states that devastated their economies with lockdown measures. She added in another tweet that unlike her peers in other states, she’s not facing a massive budget deficit brought on by pandemic policies. South Dakota had a 3.6 percent unemployment rate in October, compared with 6.9 percent nationwide.
“We haven’t shut down businesses or closed churches,” Noem said. “In fact, our state has never even defined what an ‘essential business’ is. That, quite simply, is not the government’s role.”
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