Kristi Noem claims successful response to Covid in CPAC speech joining GOP 2024 hopefuls

Trump ally criticises those who followed advice of Dr Fauci, who she says is ‘wrong a lot’, despite overseeing more fatalities forty-two other states, per capita

Gino Spocchia
Sunday 28 February 2021 18:18 GMT
Kristi Noem celebrates Covid response and attacks Dr Fauci

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem claimed to have successfully responded to her state’s Covid-19 pandemic, and took aim at widespread restrictions, as she addressed conservatives on Saturday.

Ms Noem, a potential 2024 Republican primary candidate, was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, when she discussed the United States’ – and her own – response to Covid-19.

She told CPAC that 2020 showed ”why America needs conservatives” and claimed that states who ordered Covid-related restrictions “crushed the economy” created by Donald Trump.

The former Republican president is due to address the conference on Sunday, following three days of speeches by his allies in the party.

“Now let me be clear,” Ms Noem told the CPAC crowd. “Covid didn’t crush the economy, the government crushed the economy.”

Read more: Trump CPAC speech – live: Ex-president hailed as ‘the boss’ ahead of first address since leaving office

She continued: “Everybody knows that almost overnight we went from a roaring economy to a tragic, nationwide shutdown.”

Ms Noem, who refused any widespread mask wearing, social distancing, or business closures in South Dakota, went on to oversee more cases and deaths from Covid per capita than many states – despite a relatively smaller population.

She told CPAC: "We never focused on the case numbers, instead, we kept our eye on hospital capacity.”

The South Dakota governor was then applauded for an attack on Dr Anthony Fauci, the infectious diseases expert and member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, for allegedly overestimating the state’s hospitalisation numbers.

"I don't know if you agree with me, but Dr Fauci is wrong a lot," said Ms Noem of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, who has criticised Mr Trump in recent weeks.

“Dr Fauci, he told me that on my worst day I’d have 10,000 patients in the hospital. On our worst day, we had a little over 600,” she continued.

South Dakota has recorded more than 112,000 coronavirus infections and 1,886 deaths as a result of Covid, according to CNN and John Hopkins University, and currently ranks eighth for deaths per capita, out of all 50 US states.

Ms Noem, a fierce ally of former president Trump, is expected to run in the 2024 presidential primary race, although no announcement has been made. Other possible challengers, including GOP senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, also appeared at CPAC in recent days.

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