South Dakota governor criticises Americans for giving up liberties for ‘a little bit of security’ while avoiding a state stay-at-home order

Governor Kristi Noem is one of seven governors to not mandate residents stay home

Danielle Zoellner
Friday 17 April 2020 17:26 BST
South Dakota governor says Americans gave up liberties for just 'a little security'

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has defended her decision to not issue stay-at-home orders, while saying Americans have given up "liberties for a little bit of security" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor was in charge of one of the seven states - which include North Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wyoming, Utah, and Iowa - to avoid ordering residents to stay home statewide as the novel virus spreads through the US. The other governors are also Republican.

When defending her decision to not lockdown the state, Ms Noem said South Dakota was not New York, so it therefore did not need similar restrictions.

But in the last week the state has found its own hotspot of coronavirus infections after a pork-processing plant, Smithfield Foods, in Sioux Falls shut down indefinitely after more than 300 employees fell ill from the virus.

"I took an oath when I was in Congress, obviously to uphold the constitution of the United States. I believe in our freedoms and liberties," Ms Noem said in an interview with Fox News.

"What I've seen across the country is so many people give up their liberties for just a little bit of security. And I don't have to do that."

She claimed other leaders with "too much power" during a crisis could lead to "how we lose our country".

"So I felt like I've had to use every single opportunity to talk about why we slow things down, we make decisions based on science and facts and make sure that we are not letting emotion grab a hold of the situation," Ms Noem added.

Although there was the one area of concern at the Smithfield processing plant, the governor said about two-thirds of the state had only one or now coronavirus cases. Ignoring calls to issue stay-at-home orders also allowed the governor to keep businesses open, she claimed

"We are addressing the one hotspot that we do have an aggressively testing in that area," Ms Noem said. "And South Dakotans are doing a fantastic job following my recommendations."

Sioux Fall Mayor Paul TenHaken asked South Dakota's governor to issue stay-at-home orders for two counties in the state, which are the most populous and include the Covid-19 hotspot.

But Ms Noem denied the request, and the mayor instead issued a "no lingering" ordinance for residents.

When speaking to CBS This Morning on Wednesday, the Republican mayor explained why he wanted a stay-at-home order.

"The virus doesn't know boundaries. The virus doesn't know city limits," Mr TenHaken said. "We're responding the best we can at the local level but quite honestly with a limited tool set."

"The growth that we've seen in our Covid cases, really in the last week, has been a bit staggering," he added."We're doubling and we've been doubling every four days for the last 18 days."

Amid the governor refusing to issue stay-at-home orders, Mr TenHaken said he would rather be "chastised for being over-cautious" than for not acting enough.

The South Dakota State Medical Association also asked the governor to issue stay-at-home orders in a letter.

"A stay-at-home order would give our health professionals the necessary time and resources to manage this pandemic," the association wrote. "We may soon be facing the challenges and hardships being seen in New York and other cities if a shelter in place order is not issued immediately."

South Dakota has more than 1,300 confirmed cases and seven people have died from the novel virus.

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