Kristi Noem: The Governor Who Stayed the Course
By John Fund June 7, 2020 9:01 PM
‘The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety.’
Pierre, South Dakota — The coronavirus crisis hasn’t been kind to the reputations of many governors.
New York’s Andrew Cuomo held effective news conferences that at first burnished his image, but he’s now ducking responsibility for sending virus patients back into nursing homes where the disease promptly spread. Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer is now seen as a scold who on the one hand has kept pot dispensaries open but, on the other, last week told residents who’ve gone three months without hair care to just “Google how to do a haircut.”
Among the governors whose reputation has clearly been enhanced is South Dakota’s Kristi Noem. The 48-year-old Republican, who still ranches her family’s land, didn’t issue a shelter-in-place lockdown order for her state. “The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety,” she said in a public statement in April. She added that the state and national constitutions “prevent us from taking draconian measures much like the Chinese government has done.”
But that didn’t mean South Dakota didn’t take clear steps to control the virus. Noem issued an executive order in March urging the elderly and those with preexisting conditions to stay home and encouraging employees to practice social distancing and to telework if possible.
“We do follow Center for Disease Control guidance,” Noem told Greg Kelly of Newsmax TV. “But we also made decisions that were best for South Dakota. South Dakota is not New York City.” Indeed, per square mile, New York has more than 26,000 residents per square mile, while South Dakota has only 12.
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