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Noem and Legislators Can’t Talk About Coronavirus in Front of Reporters

Governor Kristi Noem talks a lot about the importance of openness and transparency in government. Apparently that doesn’t extend to discussions of coronavirus, as she booted reporters from a meeting with legislators in Pierre yesterday about what Trump last night called the “horrible infection”:

KELO-TV’s Bob Mercer and SDBA’s Patrick Callahan were in the room when Sen. Blake Curd of Sioux Falls made the announcement that the coronavirus briefing would be for legislators only and that interns, staff, and media needed to leave.

Governor Noem says she wanted the media out of the room so state lawmakers could speak candidly and ask candid questions about the situation [Todd Epp, “Media, Public Barred from Attending Gov. Noem’s Coronavirus Meeting with Legislators,” KELO Radio, 2020.03.11].

Legislators can’t speak candidly with the press and constituents listening? What do legislators or the Governor have to say about public health interventions that they can’t say on the record? Are all Trumpistanis genetically incapable of managing a public health crisis effectively?

When one of the most important parts of disease prevention is quashing the spread of rumors and misinformation, openly kicking reporters out of a meeting with lawmakers on the pretense that there are things they can’t say in front of the public does strengthen public knowledge or confidence.


  1. Richard Schriever 2020-03-12

    Just some more bricks in “The Wall”.

  2. Donald Pay 2020-03-12

    I, for one, am glad they closed it off to the press. The idiots in the Legislature are likely to spouts FOX news lies and conspiracy theories, which would get picked up and amplified by the South Dakota press.

    Cory asks, “Are all Trumpistanis genetically incapable of managing a public health crisis effectively?” The answer is “Yes.”

    Last night’s speech by Trump on the pandemic was written by Stephen Miller and Jared The Expert. Anyone feel safer after that?

    The best thing that could happen right now is that the press NOT report what is coming out of President Trump’s or politicians’ mouths about COVID-19. Report the information coming from the scientists and doctors.

  3. jerry 2020-03-12

    The worse that can happen is for no reporting. The best that we could ever hope for is that all republicans, every stinkin one of them, resign.

  4. jerry 2020-03-12

    I want reporting on what towns these 8 virus cases are located and also where the man that died was from. The counties don’t tell me one bit. We have a right to know if we have come into contact with someone who has tested positive or has died.

  5. jerry 2020-03-12

    Reporting from Iran

    “Two days after Iran declared its first cases of the novel coronavirus — in what would become one of the largest outbreaks of the illness outside of China — evidence of unusual activity appeared at a cemetery near where the infections emerged.

    At the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran, the excavation of a new section of the graveyard began as early as Feb. 21, satellite images show, and then rapidly expanded as the virus spread. By the end of the month, two large trenches — their lengths totaling 100 yards — were visible at the site from space.” Washington Post 03.12.20

    If you think that by not reporting, this will somehow go away, you are clearly thinking like a republican.

  6. Francis Schaffer 2020-03-12

    So does it follow logically that we have no adults in the Legislature? I want to know why the current batch of elected officials cannot be candid to the citizens of South Dakota? That must mean they are truly purchased and cannot express their own opinion until someone gives the opinion to them. Is this a situation in which the general public will be told something different than the government officials so they can protect themselves and their families, while leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves after it is too late? No I do not have my tinfoil hat on just now, but leaving less than competent elected officials in charge of a pandemic is not a policy which should ever be used.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-03-12

    Donald points out an interesting challenge for journalists and voters alike. On the one hand, we need to know exactly what out elected leaders are saying and doing so we can hold them accountable. That’s quality control in a democracy. On the other hand, we can see that many of the things Donald Trump says do active harm, and we might here similar harmful foolishness from some poorly educated legislators. We need to know that they are poorly educated and thus not capable of making good decisions, but we also need to avoid letting their lies misinform the public.

    I’ve often thought that the press should exercise some judgment, discern Trump’s useful statements from his improv rambling, and only report when the White House has something instructive to say… which means that, many days, the press would report nothing from the White House, and we might get more reporting about actual policy instead of Trump’s “reality”-TV drama and insults.

    But I keep coming back to the idea that when the leader of the free world is an ignorant maniac, the press needs to provide the evidence to that remarkable fact, and then we must all take on the obligation of acting on that evidence.

  8. Jeff Barth 2020-03-12

    We failed to test for the virus Nationally and Statewide. Now the virus is out of control and they are afraid to tell us the truth. We don’t even know where it is. With three cases admitted to in Minnehaha County there are likely 300 actual cases. As a county commissioner I have had no communication from the State, zero.

    Why did they allow 8000 people to attend the USD-SDSU game last weekend? Are they using biological warfare on sports fans? Are the hospitals sitting on empty hoping for some patients?

    I’m not happy…..

  9. grudznick 2020-03-12

    Mr. Barth, as a county commissioner you can do nothing but panic people. Sit still, sir, and stay there. We don’t need county commissioners walking downhill and breathing heavily all over the place.

  10. o 2020-03-12

    Is the idea that we can “contain” the spread of this virus foolish? Given modern travel and social interactions, isn’t the idea that the US could stop a virus from spreading absurd? Do “we” believe “we” can stop this from making it to “our” neighborhood?

    I agree that common-sense preventive measures are good ideas for our most vulnerable and/or highest risk populations, but halting the general spread? Would we be better served looking at this like a natural disaster – a hurricane?

  11. Jeff Barth 2020-03-12

    Good points but I can make no apology for the truth.

  12. jerry 2020-03-12

    If you have insurance, keep in mind that you have a deductible and a co insurance to pay up to your maximum out of pocket if you get the virus.

    If you think you might be sick, you can pay a co-pay…if you have insurance.

    If you don’t qualify for Medicaid or if you don’t have insurance, you’re screwed.

  13. Donald Pay 2020-03-12

    o is right, but the spread of the virus can be slowed by measures such as travel restrictions, social distancing, and quarantines. Eventually we all will probably have to face COVID-19 infection, but slowing the spread frees up needed medical space and resources and provides for a learning curve for better medical responses to the virus.

    Trump’s first travel ban (China) helped slow the spread here. That’s about the only thing he did right. That should have given the US two weeks to a month more to plan for the inevitable spread. Unfortunately, the Trump administration frittered away that planning time. Since Trump had gutted the White House office Obama established that would have coordinated that planning, there was no coordinated effort to get testing kits and resources out to the local communities. It also could have been used for planning the self-distancing measures that would have avoided the panic buying of certain items we have seen in my community.

    I was lucky to have my daughter telling me how to go about this. She’s been self-quarantining for two months in Beijing, where it is most people are doing the same.

    We knew from China that this is a tricky virus with mild symptoms in younger cohorts and deadly impacts in the aged. We should have expected the first place it would manifest would be in the elderly population, which it did in Washington state. It is at that point we should have started social distancing–canceling meetings, ball games, etc. However, that means that it was probably circulating in the community a week or two before that.

  14. Jeff Barth 2020-03-12

    It is working in Italy where the doubling of cases has gone from every 2.6 days to every 2.8 days.

  15. Robin Friday 2020-03-12

    Mr. Pay, that is the best analysis I have seen in one place for the last month. Thank you.

  16. Buckobear 2020-03-12

    Word now is that the admin has directed all meetings of the coronavirus task force be treated as “classified.”
    Why doesn’t anyone ask why, if this virus and its affects are respiratory, are the supermarkets being stripped of toilet paper? Kleenex, I can understand, but toilet paper and tushie wipes ??

  17. jerry 2020-03-12

    What country do you think we will go to war against to cover up this blunder? The Guardian floats an interesting question. South Dakota is just following orders from headquarters, shut up and control the message. How do you know how many have died when you don’t have the tests?

    “”The lack of tests means that the country is stumbling blindfolded into the worst health crisis in decades. Despite warnings from his own experts, the president reportedly clings to the relatively low number of confirmed cases as a sign that the US might be spared the worst.

    When the country is struck by the inevitable wave of sickness and deaths, sweeping aside Trump’s reassurances, it is hard to predict how he will react.

    We do know he will see it through the prism of his prospects for re-election, and we can be fairly certain he will look for someone to blame along with a distraction, most likely some form of conflict at home or abroad.

    The scale of the debacle will require a major distraction. Awful as the coronavirus pandemic looks now, Trump’s backlash could be even worse.”

    Think about that, if you find that this virus will impact half of the US, how many more will a war with someone impact? Remember, there has to be oil, so China is out. Vietnam has oil, but they kicked our arse, so that one is a no go. North Korea, nothing there. Nope, it has got to be about oil.

  18. o 2020-03-12

    Donald, OK, I get the math now about even if the same amount of people get infected, slowing that spread and spreading that out over more time reduced the taxation on our caring capacity. Level out the spike.

    It is really startling how drastic measures have to get to slow the advance.

  19. jerry 2020-03-12

    California governor just issued an executive order that shows what planning and leadership really is all about. Instead of trying to conceal what is already known, he has gone ahead with how to deal with the virus including commandeering hotels and the like for the treatment of patients.

    In the meantime, we still don’t know where the confirmed sick patients came from. We only know the county. We don’t know the extent of their travels in the state and how many more people they may have been in contact with. We are still playing tournament basketball and other events as if nothing is wrong.

  20. Scott 2020-03-12

    Doing things to slow the spread is important. It gives time to develop the test and come up with plans to deal with this.

    We need to get to the point where all hospital labs can diagnose Covid-19. Having just 1 lab in the state that is hundreds of miles from some hospitals is not an acceptable way of diagnosing a pandemic illness.

    I like the responses from the NBA, NCAA and even what Sioux Falls mayor announced late this afternoon. Lets hunker down for a couple weeks and all do our best to control the spread of this.

  21. Paladn 2020-03-14

    Why would this action by the Governor surprise anyone? When the three branches of state government can bar the fourth branch of said discussion, legislative members and the Gov can say anything with no accountability to the public, why would they forsake that opportunity?

  22. jerry 2020-03-14

    The UK, where we can fly back and forth to, is not gonna do anything regarding the virus and just let it run its course. Back to 1665 we’re going and it suits South Dakota just fine.

    Interesting that we’re not testing (no test kits) the folks that are dying from pneumonia as we are calling that a complication of the flu. Our numbers in the United States and in particular, South Dakota, seem to be skewed and not worked out with arithmetic according to what little comes out of Pierre.

  23. STEVE WEGNER 2020-08-15

    Patrick Callahan | Media Director. Patrick Callahan serves as the Media Director within the Governor’s Office. He has more than 30 years of experience in broadcast, print, and corporate communications and regularly works with local, state, and regional media

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