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.
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.