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Noem Uses Handpicked Parents as Puppets, Mischaracterizes Science and Kids

Governor Kristi Noem justifies her reckless push to return our kids (not hers, since they’re all done with our public K-12 schools) to normal face-to-face instruction this fall by claiming that all but one of the parents she invited to closed, unannounced meetings in Sioux Falls, Huron, and Spearfish agree with her Trumpist denial of fact and public health risks:

Over the last few weeks, I had several opportunities to meet with parents across our beautiful state to discuss getting our kids back into school buildings this fall. My team and I met parents in Sioux Falls, Spearfish, and Huron. All but one parent agreed that we need to get our students back in the classroom [Gov. Kristi Noem, press release, 2020.08.14].

Governor Noem shoves her selective science quotes into her puppet parents’ mouths:

Parents understand… that children are less likely to contract or spread COVID-19. Data from other countries where schools have already reopened indicates that our kids are at low risk compared to adults, and a JAMA Pediatrics report tells us that “children are at far greater risk of critical illness from influenza than from COVID-19.” Given these promising facts, we can rest easy knowing that our kids are safely learning in the best environment possible [Noem, 2020.08.14].

The JAMA Pediatrics study to which Noem refers is from May 11, 2020. It looked at 48 children who tested positive for coronavirus and were admitted to intensive care between March 14 and April 3. Two of those children died. The study noted that nationwide, 81 children had died of influenza during the 2020 portion of the the traditional flu season. In the mostly sunny coronavirus season, when we’ve been keeping our kids away from their usual places of congregation and from the bars and Sturgis and essential-worker workplaces where adults have been sharing their cooties, 90 children have died of coronavirus.

Asked whether kids can carry and spread coronavirus, the lead author of Noem’s cited study, Dr. Lara Shekerdemian, chief of critical care at Texas Children’s Hospital, says, “the answer is conclusively, without a doubt – yes,” and notes that kids may actually carry coronavirus more frequently than adults and pose a greater risk of unwittingly spreading the disease:

Surveillance screening, which is testing all children admitted to a hospital, revealed a higher percentage of them carrying the virus and not showing any symptoms, she said.

The trend is consistent with data from Florida. About one-third of children tested in the state for COVID-19 returned positive results, which is higher than the overall statewide positivity rate of 11%, according to state data.

Though there has yet to be hard data to prove asymptomatic spread – transmitting the virus without displaying any symptoms – Shekerdemian said there’s nothing to suggest “the lack of symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t transmit it.”

“There’s no doubt they can be asymptomatic. Do they carry (the virus) more often than adults?” she said. “That’s a hard one to answer. There isn’t enough surveillance going on in the community.”

Megan Culler Freeman, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said nose swab studies have shown children have the same amount of viral load in their noses as adults.

Children are more likely to have only mild symptoms, which may not be noticeable to child or parent. Shekerdemian said that by being healthier, children can actually be more dangerous as they’re less likely to stay at home sick and more likely to go out into the world, unknowingly spreading the virus [Adrianna Rodriguez, “Can Kids Spread the Coronavirus? ‘Conclusively, Without a Doubt—Yes,’ Experts Say,” USA Today, updated 2020.07.20].

Subsequent research has found kids can carry at least coronavirus in their snouts than adults, if not far more.

Noem underplays the ability of kids to follow rules and continues her effort to portray mask advocates and dangerous bullies:

Masks are a big part of the discussion on back-to-school. Most parents that we met with agreed that it is impractical for students to properly wear a mask for the entire school day. Kids will play with their mask, touch their face, or get them dirty, all of which can actually increase the spread of the virus. During a recent press conference, I gently teased a reporter that he’d touched his mask about a half-dozen times – and he was an adult! Certainly, our children are more prone to such behavior.

Other parents are making the decision that their kids will wear masks to school, and that choice is well within their purview to make. I’d encourage parents on both sides of this discussion to recognize that their peers may have reason to make a different choice, and that we shouldn’t shame those who choose differently. We don’t always know the reason behind the choices that someone else makes, so let’s be compassionate and understanding towards each other [Noem, 2020.08.14].

But Dr. Shekerdemian says kids are smarter than we think and will follow a good example if we adults have the discipline to set it:

Some question whether younger children have the discipline to keep masks on during school while out of their parents’ supervision, but Shekerdemian said kids deserve more credit. “Children are very conscious of what their peers are doing, (and) most parents see that their children are way more disciplined at school than at home,” she said.

It’s also up to schools to encourage such behavior. Shekerdemian said mask-wearing has become normal for most kids. “(They) adapt to new things often more quickly than adults do because they tend not to question it,” she said [Rodriguez, 2020.07.20].

Governor Noem does not seem to be living up to her claim that she is reading all the science. Perhaps Governor Noem should invite Dr. Shekerdemian to Zoom in to one of her press conferences to elaborate on the Governor’s characterizations of all the science.


  1. Eve Fisher 2020-08-15 08:58

    As I’ve noted before, Herself sticks with the old science – and in a world of a brand new viral pandemic, an article 3 months old is positive ancient – because it tells her what she wants to hear. Plus, I don’t think anyone ever convinced her that science changes according to the discovery of new facts. And when someone tells her this, her reaction is probably that that’s ridiculous – why would things change? Besides, it’s just the flu!
    It’s not the flu. Children do get it. Children do die from it. And if we stuck with the old science, without change, we’d still be smelling flowers to cure malaria. Wait for it – that’ll come up soon.

  2. jerry 2020-08-15 09:58

    150 South Dakotan’s (that we know of) have died from the Covid19 on Tinker Belle GNOem’s watch. A wide range of ages in those deaths that she could have worked to prevent. No matter how much pixie dust she spreads out of her nether region, the facts are clear that this ghoul has blood on her hands. 10,000 sick South Dakotan’s that will carry the trump disease as it will continue to shorten their lives and their general health. This ghoul was a big mistake and we are all paying for it.

  3. Scott 2020-08-15 11:11

    Is she just meeting with Right Wing Extremists? If you look at the numbers, look how many kids and their parents have opted for the virtual classes. I see Sioux Falls just opened the virtual class option up again for a few more days. That tells me that the Sioux Falls school district must have been getting hammered with more requests for their virtual school.

    Most people I talk with think that in person classes are not going to last very long. Most people think if in person classes make it into the middle of October, that will be about it.

  4. David Newquist 2020-08-15 14:01

    And there is the weasel-wording: “All but one parent agreed that we need to get our students back in the classroom.” Who would not say there is a need to get students back in the classrooms? But what conditions would apply in meeting that need? That is not addressed by Noem and it is the crucial matter.

  5. leslie 2020-08-15 14:17

    “let’s be compassionate and understanding towards each other [Noem, 2020.08.14].”

    Before or AFTER my kid contracts your unmasked virus? Then spreads it asymptomatically everywhere she goes with out a mask (I compassionately, as a good Republican, decide for her ). Does she spread it to Gramma where she stays every weekend for a night? Or occasional overnight play dates with friends? Do grandmother and granddaughter both become ill? Does gramma die? Perhaps. Does granddaughter survive but live compromised for the next year, 5 years, or 20 years?

    And like reporting Indian checkpoints to Pres Trump, Kristi
    “gently teased a reporter that he’d touched his mask about a half-dozen times —.” She does NOT have skin in the game!

    If you are unwilling to protect kids in school, don’t follow Betsy Devos and Donald Trump desire to protect billionaire profit during a pandemic!

    Stop making us walk you thru every baby step it takes to talk you out of delusion.

    And when wrongful death litigation begins, will you deny the right to sue with gentle compassion?

  6. Debbo 2020-08-15 16:26

    Chalkbeat has a story about YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, churches, community centers, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, libraries, various nonprofits and for profits teaming up to fill educational gaps. The concern is VERY widespread.

  7. DaveFN 2020-08-15 16:56

    A recent study out of South Korea found that children younger than 10 years of age transmit to others much less often than do adults while children between the ages of 10 and 19 are able of spreading the virus at least as well as do adults.

    Contact Tracing during Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, South Korea, 2020, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 26, Number 10, October 2020.

    The NYT describes the above study:

  8. T 2020-08-16 06:12

    We went from mandatory to optional because of the “rights”
    School systems are not recognizing the social ramifications “optional” will produce. The non wearers were make it known, guaranteed this will happen,
    To the mask wearers they don’t have to wear them. Hence the mask “bullying” and the supremacy of the no. Mask wearers.
    Like the “brown eyes” study in the late 60s or early 70s whenever that was. Either make it all must wear or none….(be smart and considerate and choose the masks)
    We all know the non wearers are a lot louder and more worried about their rights than a teachers safety

  9. Jake 2020-08-16 10:46

    “To err on the side of caution!” was a proverb both political parties utilized in the past in similar cases. Government for ALL the people must do likewise.

  10. mike from iowa 2020-08-16 12:46

    That is what wingnuts believe in, Jake. Gubmint for all the white. kristian people.

  11. Debbo 2020-08-16 14:21

    This is from Jennifer Brooks’ column in today’s Strib. She’s writing about Lark Toys in Minnesota. Their business, including online, really popped after they politely kicked out of their store a family who claimed to all be medically exempt from wearing masks. The family was not at all polite.

    “Nobody likes wearing masks. We wear them because otherwise we could spread coronavirus around and most of us care whether our neighbors live or die. This is Minnesota, not Sturgis.”

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