Governor Kristi Noem’s “plan” for reopening businesses amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic includes some underemphasized criteria for determining when it is safe to start to even start reopening.We’re supposed to see 14 consecutive days of decreased covid-19 cases and decreased reported influenza-like illnesses. But as of right now, the Department of Health’s coronavirus isn’t putting those crucial numbers at the top of their dashboard, clearly labeled, where local leaders could access and study them to inform their literally life-and-death decisions about whether to call their workers back in.
But don’t bother scrounging up that data: the Governor never intended to enforce those criteria. If any business opens up and violates the Governor’s suggestions for keeping workers and the public safe, Governor Noem will not lift a finger:
[Health Secretary Kim] Malsam-Rysdon said she hoped the business would follow the Governor’s and the CDC’s advice on best practices during the pandemic.
“The direction of the Governor is (for businesses) to resume operations in a manner that allows for reasonable physical distance and good hygiene and appropriate sanitation,” Malsam-Rysdon said.
However, the state currently has no enforcement mechanism in place should a business flaunt the Back to Normal guidelines….
“The enforcement of these kinds of things has been really dictated at the local level,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “Of course, cities have some ability to create ordinances relative to that situation (i.e., a rogue business) that they see in their community and their need to enforce actions on businesses and others” [Todd Epp, “S.D. Secretary of Health Says Up to Cities and Counties to Crack Down on Businesses That Don’t Abide COVID-19 Best Practices,” KELO Radio, 2020.04.29].
If individuals alert the state to unsafe business practices, they’ll get the same “you’re on your own” shrug. Beth Warden looked into the Health Department’s claim that it offers employees guidance on dealing with coronavirus concerns at work via the state covid-19 hotline. KSFY asked about services for employees on April 11 and was told to call the covid-19 hotline. They did that and were told “that’s not what the hotline was for.” KSFY followed up with Secretary Malsam-Rysdon on April 23 and got assurances that the hotline would start providing help for employees. Here’s the result:
“We clarified with the folks that are manning the 800 number for us, how they can help connect people to get the answers to the questions that they have. So, thank you for pointing that out and I hope that’s not what you would experience if you call them today,” said Malsam-Rysdon.
One woman, who asked that she only be identified as Sarah, was concerned about COVID-19 in the work place and reached out to Dakota News Now. She called the COVID information hotline.
Operator: “Are you pretty close to other people?”
Operator: “Do you have your own space?”
The operator asked for and was given the name of the employer, a known business with COVID-19 among employees. This was the response given to Sarah:
“Washing your hands frequently have some hand sanitizer at your desk. If you have, you know, just kind of staying in your own little area as best you can,” said the operator.
Sarah inquired about the lack of change of social distancing the hallways, elevator, break room and shared items like fridges for lunch. She was advised to wear a mask as much as possible and wash her hands.
The operator did inquire if Sarah was required to share a computer, which she is not, and that seemed to be a relief to the operator.
There was a note of disappointment from Sarah’s perspective that there was no acknowledgment of a COVID-19 case at work, or that the State Department had any interaction with the business regarding it. There was no offer to follow up on the concerns or call Sarah back [Beth Warden, “South Dakota Employee Pandemic Concerns Addressed Differently by Location,” KSFY, 2020.04.29].
Workers pay taxes for government, and now our government is refusing to protect workers. This isn’t government; this is South Dakota’s business-über-alles mindset gone pathological. This Kristi Noem running for a Cabinet post. This is Kristi Noem failing to act on science and citizen concerns and instead desperately trying to plug the economy back in so Donald Trump can stay in power and save her from her dreary life of having to put on a show of governing in Pierre.