Press "Enter" to skip to content

White House Agrees: South Dakota Not Doing Enough to Fight Coronavirus

All those Trumpists in Brookings crying about their city government’s leadership in passing the first citywide mask mandate in South Dakota had better think again. South Dakota is not doing enough to contain the coronavirus pandemic, says the White House Covid-19 Task Force:

“Continued increasing case counts and remarkably high test positivity in the context of insufficient testing levels are deeply concerning,” the task force recommendation said, and suggested “aggressively promote social distancing and use of face coverings, particularly in indoor settings, statewide” [staff, “White House Report Considers South Dakota’s Covid-19 Situation ‘Deeply Concerning’,” KSFY, 2020.09.10].

As we know, Governor Kristi Noem has done the opposite of that White House recommendation. She has actively discouraged the use of masks. Her state coronavirus website doesn’t mention masks until the bottom of its homepage, where we get this less-than-aggressive promotion of face coverings, in fonts smaller than the links to Governor Noem’s social media accounts:, homepage note on masks, 2020.09.10.
“encouraged to continue to consider CDC guidance…”—not words that leap to mind when I think aggressive messaging., annotated by CAH, 2020.09.10.

And Governor Noem has not worn a mask in public once during the public health emergency she declared in March. (Go ahead, prove me wrong: find one photo from her extensive social media streams showing her with her face covered by anything other than the ratty brim of her baseball cap.)

As for social distancing, Governor Noem is using $5 million of coronavirus relief funds to encourage the exact opposite, inviting tourists to crowd our state. The Noem Administration is directly responsible for four of the five biggest potential superspreader events of 2020 in South Dakota:

South Dakota is one of only a few states that never called a complete shut down to prevent the spread of the virus. The state has also consistently allowed large group events.

In July, President Trump attended the fireworks show at Mt. Rushmore, with 7,500 people. Masks were not required. [Neither was social distancing.]

In August, South Dakota was host to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Masks were not required.

This past weekend, the South Dakota State Fair brought visitors to Huron. Now, the Department of Health will begin testing Huron residents.

And there are continued public events. The Buffalo Round Up is scheduled for the end of September.

In late October, country musician Chris Young will perform at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls as part of the Governor’s Hunt showcase [links mine; Lee Strubinger, “White House: South Dakota’s Testing Rate, Positivity Level Is Deeply Concerning,” SDPB, 2020.09.10].

Here are some key points from the September 6 White House report that should alarm every South Dakotan:

  • South Dakota is in the red zone for cases, indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 2nd highest rate in the country. South Dakota is in the red zone for test positivity, indicating a rate above 10%, with the 2nd highest rate in the country.
  • …South Dakota had 235 new cases per 100,000 population in the last week, compared to a national average of 88 per 100,000.
  • …Current staff deployed from the federal government as assets to support the state response are: 3 to support operations activities from FEMA and 1 to support testing activities from CDC [White House Covid-19 Task Force, state report, 2020.09.06].

Pause on that third item: Governor Kristi Noem has bragged about how her influence in Washington can help South Dakota get resources… but so far, we only have four federal employees helping coordinate coronavirus emergency relief? It sounds like both Trump and Noem are trying to downplay the seriousness of this crisis.

But the White House isn’t downplaying South Dakota’s failure to do enough to check coronavirus. Here is the complete list of White House recommendations to South Dakota; I bold the items on which our Governor appears to be falling short:

  • Continued increasing case counts and remarkably high test positivity in the context of insufficient testing levels are deeply concerning; aggressively promote social distancing and use of face coverings, particularly in indoor settings, statewide.
  • Follow hospital data closely and ensure hospital and EMS capacities are sufficient and expandable, supplies are sufficient, and clinicians at all facilities are trained on latest standards of care, especially in counties with larger populations of older residents and those with comorbidities.
  • Aggressively scale community education and locally-developed public health messaging across the state, targeting ranching and agriculture communities. Emphasize the risks to vulnerable populations and interventions to reduce risk.
  • Testing is critical for epidemic control and needs to be expanded across the state. Increase testing capacity by implementing pooled testing and ensure all platforms, including university research and veterinary platforms, are being utilized at full capacity and for surveillance and community testing as bandwidth allows. Budget to increase public health lab capacity with evening and weekend hours. Distinctions between surveillance and diagnostic testing should be maintained.
  • Ensure that all university and colleges have a plan for screening, testing, and retesting students, regardless of symptoms.
  • Explore use of focused wastewater surveillance to detect cases early and to direct diagnostic testing and public health interventions.
  • University students should have isolation/quarantine and care sites on or near campus; infected students should not be returned home where additional transmission could occur.
  • Continue ongoing efforts to build contact tracing capabilities through increasing staff, training, and funding. Focus on hiring from universities and colleges and within the communities where efforts are focused.
  • Tribal Nations: Continue to promote social distancing and face mask recommendations for all events, especially as fall community and dance events pick up. Develop specific, culturally-relevant education and public health
    messaging. Ensure spaces and material support for quarantine of contacts and isolation of cases, as needed.
  • Using the Abbott BinaxNOW, establish weekly surveillance in critical populations to monitor degree of community spread among K-12 teachers; staff working at nursing homes, assisted living, and other congregate living settings; and
    first responders.
  • Specific, detailed guidance on community mitigation measures can be found on the CDC website [White House, 2020.09.06].

If I indulged my cynicism, I could take some pleasure in Governor Noem acting in opposition to this White House. But in this case, she’s bucking one rare bit of good advice from the White House to continue jeopardizing our public health for the sake of her vanity.

Brookings, you’re on the right track in taking more aggressive measures to contain coronavirus. The White House Covid-19 Task Force says so. Every city council should follow Brookings’s example and this report’s advice and take the actions Governor Noem refuses to take to fight coronavirus.


  1. Loren 2020-09-10 22:11

    Kristi has spent all this time sucking up to Trump and Trumpkins. Wonder how she feels tonight now that Woodward’s book has come out showing that Trump knew downplaying dangers of the virus was the American public? Do you suppose Kristi will feel like a schmuck for peddling this bunk? I don’t think she’s any smarter than the other SD sycophants, Senators Dakota Slim, Smilin Mike and Dusty the Dude, so probably not. Pathetic, all!

  2. Debbo 2020-09-10 23:01

    I don’t think Kruel Kristi has sufficient empathy to register any level of schmuckiness.

  3. John Dale 2020-09-11 07:32

    Masks are not being used properly. Tulsa doctors suing over mandate. They don’t help. It’s about submission.

    On this issue, the child has spoken, and the emperor wears no clothes.

  4. Eve Fisher 2020-09-11 09:18

    And the smoking gun that Kristi does not care 1 damn thing about us, from the Argus Leader:
    “Both Noem and the White House on Wednesday rejected requests by the Argus Leader to see the latest report. But ABC News was able to obtain the report, as well as similar reports sent to other U.S. states, and made it public Thursday…
    Maggie Seidel, a senior advisor in Noem’s office, said the governor doesn’t find the COVID-19 situation in South Dakota “deeply concerning”…
    “We thought that we were going to have 10,000 people in the hospital and now this is deeply concerning?” she said. “Now we’re at about 2,400 active cases.”
    Seidel said the governor isn’t dismissive of White House Coronavirus Task Force reports sent to her office on a weekly basis. Rather, she uses them along with other recommendations to make the best policy decisions she sees fit, Seidel said.”

    The whole thing is we are Kristi’s fiefdom where, apparently, she is determined to avoid spending her days until she can go to the Magical Land of Washington D.C. and pal around with the bigshots again and not have to do any work. In the meantime, it’s our job to either die quietly or not, but no matter what, shut up about it and do what we’re told.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-11 12:41

    The fact that some people don’t use masks properly does not debunk the science that says they work when used properly. It doesn’t excuse Governor Noem from discouraging their proper use. It does not negate the validity of the recommendations in this report that South Dakota take more aggressive steps to prevent more people from incurring this costly illness and dying.

  6. o 2020-09-11 14:37

    John Dale, I hope that your imperative that things that are not used correctly ought to be removed also applies to guns.

    Why not take the NRA talking points and apply them here: masks are not the issue, users are; education is what we need; the only thing that stops the CORONA virus is a good guy in a mask . . .

  7. Debbo 2020-09-11 15:04

    That’s very good O. I like it.

  8. Darrell Solberg 2020-09-11 15:23

    So sad, now are do nothing for South Dakota governor is traveling the United States campaigning for DJT. All of this while in the news S.D. continues to increase in positive test. It has always been about Kristi!!! You can tell her, but you can’t tell her much!!!

  9. jerry 2020-09-11 19:53

    The trump/GNOem virus marches on here in South Dakota’s schools.

    “Rapid City Area Schools reports 22 active cases across the school district among 14 students and eight staff members, marking an increase among student cases from last week when seven students and 13 staff had an active case.

    Another 94 students and staff are in quarantine. District community relations manager Katy Urban said she couldn’t share which schools have the cases, but said the cases are “really spread out.” Urban did not share data on recoveries or the total number of cases across the district, only on the cases considered active.” Rapid City Journal 9.11.20

    Wonder how the home lives are for these students infected. What a preventable tragedy we are seeing.

  10. mike from iowa 2020-09-11 19:59

    dumpf body count hits new milestones today…

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

  11. jerry 2020-09-11 20:22

    2 confirmed trump/GNOem virus in Lead/Deadwood schools with 8 more in quarantine. Caregivers for these kids must be heartbroken to know this all was preventable.

  12. mike from iowa 2020-09-12 18:31

    drumpf body count exceeded 198k today.

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    That is a lot of downplaying from the original 15 cases that would magically disappear sometime, somewhere.

  13. leslie 2020-09-13 03:53

    I challenge mayor allender, Rapid City:

    Explore use of focused wastewater surveillance to detect cases early and to direct diagnostic testing and public health interventions!

    what has your explanation revealed?

    As jerry and others have indicated above, schools are 1) starting to show infection spread, and

    2) schools or administrators are not transparently reporting infection information!

    “Avoid panic” seems to be more important than “avoid infection,” just like one supposes, more important than income or profit of business as opposed to tenants, wage earners and the holy stock market. A Trumpian excuse. Billionaire Secretary DOE Devos is not an educator but a Trump ideologue.

  14. leslie 2020-09-13 03:55

    “Exploration”, not explanation.

  15. jerry 2020-09-13 15:50

    I wonder what the Sunday “schools” are reporting for infections, maybe when those “schools” are hit, the Vicars will take to the pulpit to denounce this whole farce of allowing the free for all of disregard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.