The pandemic surges, and Governor Kristi Noem bleats about what she won’t do to protect life in South Dakota:
South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt and Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts, whose states are engulfed by new cases, say mask wearing should remain a personal choice, not a legal obligation — despite recommendations from health officials and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control stressing that masks protect the wearer, not just people nearby, from infection.
“Governor Noem has provided her people with the full scope of the science, facts, and data regarding the virus, and then she has trusted them to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones,” Noem spokesperson Ian Fury wrote in an email. “She will not be changing that approach” [Daniel Goldberg, Rachel Roubein, and Alice Miranda Ollstein, “Red State Governors Reject Biden on Mask Orders,” Politico, 2020.11.13].
While we suffer under the governance of a clueless cow, other states have governors who take pandemic response, science, and human life seriously.
In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday a temporary “statewide order closing in-person services for all nonessential activities in order to blunt the unprecedented spike of COVID-19 illnesses and to attempt to relieve dramatically escalating strain on hospitals and health care providers across the state.” The order is in effect November 16 through November 30, the governor said.
…Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide “two-week freeze” Friday, with a list of new measures including limiting gatherings to six people from a maximum of two households, allowing only takeout and delivery for eating and drinking establishments, closing gyms and indoor recreational facilities and requiring businesses to mandate work from home as much as possible. The measures take effect Wednesday, the governor said, and will likely last “much longer” than two weeks for “hot spot” counties.
…Idaho’s governor has mobilized the state’s National Guard Friday to help the pandemic response and rolled the state back to a modified Stage 2 of its reopening plan. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the creation of a winter Covid-19 task force in preparation for what’s to come. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday there will be an emergency meeting this weekend with the state leaders of six northeastern states to discuss additional steps [Christina Maxouris, “Governors Issue Stringent New Measures as US Reports a Staggering Covid-19 Record of More Than 184,000 Daily Cases,” CNN, 2020.11.14].
Well, there are five states, at least, where the governors live in reality.
North Dakota, the only state keeping us from having the worst coronavirus headlines every day, is also accepting that it must change course to fight the virus that is devastating its health care workers:
North Dakota has put in place a statewide mask mandate, occupancy limits on public-facing businesses and the suspension of most high school winter sports as the state’s worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 outbreak continues to spiral out of control.
The mask order, announced in a news release late Friday night, Nov. 13, means residents of the state must wear face coverings in businesses, indoor public places and outdoor public settings where social distancing cannot be maintained. The order includes exemptions for children under five years of age, people attending religious services and those with disabilities that make mask-wearing unreasonable.
The order from interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke goes into effect on Saturday, Nov. 14, and will remain on the books through Dec. 14.
Violators of the mask order can be cited for an infraction, which could come with a fine up to $1,000 for a first offense. However, Gov. Doug Burgum urged law enforcement to prioritize education and reserve penalties for the most egregious infringements [Jeremy Turley, “North Dakota Enacts Statewide Mask Mandate, Business Restrictions as Covid-19 Outbreak Rages,” InForum, 2020.11.13].
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Noem said Thursday that lockdowns don’t stop the spread of the virus. That statement, of course, is a complete lie. If we all stay home for four weeks and see no one outside of our family pods, coronavirus would not spread. Don’t go out, don’t get sick—research backs up that common sense:
Lockdown measures helped reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in countries around the world, a new study finds.
Moreover, earlier stay-in-place restrictions such as closing schools and workplaces were tied to a greater reduction in cases, according to British researchers [Robert Preidt, “Have Lockdowns Worked to Control Coronavirus?” WebMD, 2020.07.16].
Brits were sent into lockdown last week in a desperate attempt to slow the spread of the deadly bug.
And there are hopes that the strict restrictions have been working, with the R rate – which measures the average number of people a person with coronavirus infects – falling back below 1.
The crucial value is now estimated to be 0.9 across the country according to the Covid Symptom Study app while Sage’s most recent estimate, published on Friday, is that the R rate is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.3.
And the Times today reported that the Tier 3 regional restrictions worked, cutting daily contact by a third.
John Edmunds, who led the study and works with the the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The tier system did have some impact in reducing contact and especially Tier 3 had a very significant impact.
“Tier 3 restrictions reduced that by 1.5 contacts a day, which in the context of five daily contacts is a big change.”
Sage members now hope the cases will start falling in the next week after 27,301 new infections were recorded yesterday [Brittany Vonow, “Xmas Hope: England’s Lockdown Should End on December 2 and Tier 3 Restrictions Did Work, SAGE Advisers Say,” The Sun, 2020.11.14].
As North America, Europe, India, Brazil and other regions and countries struggle to bring tens of thousands of daily infections under control, Australia provides a real-time road map for democracies to manage the pandemic. Its experience, along with New Zealand’s, also shows that success in containing the virus isn’t limited to East Asian states (Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) or those with authoritarian leaders (China, Vietnam).
Several practical measures contributed to Australia’s success, experts say. The country chose to quickly and tightly seal its borders, a step some others, notably in Europe, did not take. Health officials rapidly built up the manpower to track down and isolate outbreaks. And unlike the U.S. approach, all of Australia’s states either shut their domestic borders or severely limited movement for interstate and, in some cases, intrastate travelers.
Perhaps most important, though, leaders from across the ideological spectrum persuaded Australians to take the pandemic seriously early on and prepared them to give up civil liberties they had never lost before, even during two world wars.
“We told the public: ‘This is serious; we want your cooperation,’ ” said Marylouise McLaws, a Sydney-based epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales and a World Health Organization adviser.
A lack of partisan rancor increased the effectiveness of the message, McLaws said in an interview.
The conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison, formed a national cabinet with state leaders — known as premiers — from all parties to coordinate decisions. Political conflict was largely suspended, at least initially, and many Australians saw their politicians working together to avert a health crisis.
“Regardless of who you vote for, most Australians would agree their leaders have a real care for their constituents and a following of science,” McLaws said. “I think that helped dramatically” [emphasis mine; A. Odysseus Patrick, “Australia Has Almost Eliminated the Coronavirus—by Putting Faith in Science,” Washington Post, 2020.11.05].
Governor Kristi Noem does not care about her constituents or science. She cares only about her political advancement. For that, she will do whatever she thinks or Corey Lewandowski thinks it takes (and that includes lying an rejecting obvious good public health practices) to be in the headlines and create conflict while her people burn in the fires of the pandemic she chooses to politicize.