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WV GOP Gov. Justice: We Don’t Want to Be Like South Dakota

Sanford Health’s new CEO, Bill Gassen, is a registered Republican and a big-dollar donor to Governor Kristi Noem, but Gassen says masks help prevent coronavirus and should be required statewide. West Virginia’s Republican Governor, Jim Justice, implemented such a requirement in July and continues to support that requirement with passion.

In his Wednesday briefing on coronavirus and what we need to do to fight the pandemic, Governor Justice rebutted the comments he says he gets from some of us people saying they want to be more like South Dakota. Pointing to the CBS report in which Sioux Falls mayor Paul TenHaken says he can’t enforce mask rules in South Dakota because, “This is cowboy country, man,” Governor Justice said that attitude has led South Dakota to be the deadly model of exactly how not to fight a pandemic. Far from taking away people’s rights, mask requirements are part of Governor Justice’s effort to do everything he can to protect people from getting sick and dying and not being able to exercise their liberties [start at 19:04]:

I don’t know how in the world that we could have any desire whatsoever to be South Dakota…. We are strong-willed people in West Virginia, and we have our rights, and no one is trying to infringe on your rights in any way. nobody’s doing that. Everybody’s trying to do just the opposite. Everybody’s trying to do all in our power that we… can possibly do to keep our businesses thriving and moving forward and all our job opportunities, our schools, everything. I just don’t have any other bullets in the gun [WV Gov. Jim Justice, coronavirus briefing, 2020.11.25].

Governor Justice sounds more like our old Governor Norbeck than our current Governor Kristi Noem.

To recognize the toll of Governor Noem’s relative indifference to the worst public health emergency to hit South Dakota in a century, somber South Dakotans placed 849 empty chairs, one for each reported coronavirus death in our state, in Hilger’s Gulch, across the street north from the State Capitol. The event was mostly silent, but participants also offered prayers both Lutheran and Lakota.

South Dakota reported no new coronavirus deaths yesterday, because in the middle of a raging pandemic, the state Department of Health took the day off. But coronavirus doesn’t take holidays, so doctors and nurses were still on the job, providing care for all the people suffering from our Governor’s Melania-esque lack of care.

To the good, South Dakota’s Rt score, the number of people each coronavirus-infected South Dakotan is causing to get sick, is the lowest in the nation, 0.92, signaling the spread is slowing here.

Rt scores by state, from Rt.Live, screen cap 2020.11.27.
Rt scores by state, from Rt.Live, screen cap 2020.11.27.

Our daily average cases per 100K population over the last seven days has dropped to 103.3, only fifth-worst in the nation, behind Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, and North Dakota. Alas, we’re leading the nation in daly average deaths per 100K: we’re the only state above 2, at 2.3. The next-worst states for current coronavirus death rates are North Dakota at 1.9; Montana at 1.2; New Mexico, Nebraska, and Illinois at 1.1; and Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Wyoming at 1.0. Minnesota’s recent coronavirus death rate per 100K is 0.7, less than a third of South Dakota’s.


  1. Barbara 2020-11-27 08:29

    Thank God! I pray the same will happen in Nebraska.

  2. james 2020-11-27 09:17

    “we’re leading the nation in daly average deaths per 100K: we’re the only state above 2…” Cory writes.

    But, but, but, Kristi says that New York had a higher death rate in April. We are doing great.

  3. mike from iowa 2020-11-27 09:30

    iowa has 2 straight days of 40+ bodies to count.

  4. Loren 2020-11-27 09:46

    When you are a Republican criticized by the gov of W.V., it may be time to rethink your policies. Ya think…????? Geezlouise!

  5. Jenny 2020-11-27 10:41

    What difference does it make if Gassen is a Republican – oh yeah, right, I almost forgot, this is SD, it is of utmost importance. Got to pick a nice young white big donor Republican for Sanford CEO for the next 25 years.
    At Mayo their CEOs are only there for an average of 7-8 years, it’s not in their best interest to have the same one there for 25 years.
    I doubt Gassen is really for a mask mandate but you have to play the game you know.

  6. Jenny 2020-11-27 10:55

    It’s very surprising to hear a Republican Governor from the South talk with such commonsense.

  7. Mark Anderson 2020-11-27 11:05

    Well, just think, South Dakota is open for business now. Business that can thrive with no problems with masks or pesky protestors of other races. You can live free and die, of course it’s really passing on death to others but who are the others? Mostly old people, so really the silver lining is your passing on wealth to younger people and saving yourself and the state money. Just start thinking like a Noem, people. You don’t even need a pointed red hat.

  8. mike from iowa 2020-11-27 14:38

    Over a thousand dead so far today in drumpf/noem body count…

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

  9. mike from iowa 2020-11-27 18:13

    Last body count for today…

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    and climbing.

  10. grudznick 2020-11-27 20:15

    Why was there state funding provided to stack chairs in a field? Taxpayers need to write to Governor Noem’s office and insist that this money be take back. It is just insaner than most that taxpayer dollars were used for this meaningless display.

  11. mike from iowa 2020-11-28 08:12

    A couple of thoughts, John, and no offense intended. 1 you might try Tiny URL to significantly shorten bigly URLs (it is free) and 2 The Onion is satire. Not meant to be taken seriously.

  12. Eve Fisher 2020-11-28 08:16

    Mr. Grudznick, I have no idea where you got the idea that tax-payer $$$ were spent on “this display”, but “The memorial, put on by Stop The Spread SD and sponsored by the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was livestreamed on Thursday morning, with in-person viewing discouraged to promote safety.” All private donations, and, last I heard, covered under our First Amendment rights. Freedom of religion, right?

  13. Jake 2020-11-28 12:17

    Eve, Grudz wouldn’t understand-me thinks-a well publicized event NOT using public $$$!

  14. grudznick 2020-11-28 12:34

    They used state chairs and state grounds for a religious display. They probably even have a baby jeebus in a manger display going on right now. That’s all I’m saying.

    How much did the Synod take in, and how much did the display cost? Looks like as long as you borrow a few chairs, the cost is free as long as you don’t buy treats for the people setting up the chairs.

  15. Mark Anderson 2020-11-28 13:52

    Well done South dakota, its about time you passed North Dakota in covid deaths, 54 today what a number, you should be proud.

  16. Eve Fisher 2020-11-28 13:58

    No, Mr. Grudznick, that’s not what you said at all. You said, “Why was there state funding provided to stack chairs in a field? Taxpayers need to write to Governor Noem’s office and insist that this money be take back. It is just insaner than most that taxpayer dollars were used for this meaningless display.”

    No money was spent by the state. The KELO article says that “The South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and The Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota financially supported the event in Hilger’s Gulch.” The people who arranged the chairs were volunteers. No money was charged, although drive-by freewill donations were accepted. And public places – like city parks, which Hilger’s Gulch is – are free to the public for all kinds of things, from picnicking to exercising their First Amendment rights.

    Speaking of religious displays and churches and state grounds, how do you feel about religious groups having Christmas trees at the Capitol? From the official PSA: “The Capitol Christmas display includes around 83 trees decorated by volunteers from communities, schools, CHURCHES, nonprofit organizations, and state government offices. This year’s theme for Christmas at the Capitol is “Deck the Halls.”” [My emphasis] Betcha they raise money at it, too.,and%20light%20the%20Capitol%20trees.

  17. mike from iowa 2020-11-28 16:58

    drumpf/noem body count keeps on keeping on, no matter how noem and drumpf try to ignore it…

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    In case anyone is interested, the Immoral Minority blog out of Alaska way has decided to shut down after 16 eventful years. Very good blogger and well sourced articles.

  18. Jenny 2020-11-30 19:06

    Thank you Eve Fisher for pointing out Grudz’s lie. He makes up lies like that all the time and can’t be trusted. I wish Cory would block him.

    I admire the churches and volunteers that took the time to make this compelling display of the lives of South Dakotans taken from their families because of covid. Symbolism at its best.

  19. grudznick 2020-11-30 19:11

    I am very much against churches being involved in anything at the Capitol building, Ms. Fisher. Very much against it indeed. Christmas Trees were pagan symbols, and OK with me because they are pretty, but churches have tried to pretend they are now related to the Christian Religion. As such, it is unfortunate but those need to go too.

    If the Lutherans bought all the chairs, then good for them. Let us hope they did not damage the grass.

  20. mike livingston 2020-11-30 20:53

    cruds you trolls are all alike, your free speech sounds like hate speech. I am all for separation of church and state but I reserve my remarks for people who hold the levers of power.

    Your ranting at folks that want to express their condolence to families that have an empty chair at their kitchen table. You are a real class act, not.

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