Noem infamously refused to shut down her state even though most governors across the country forced businesses, schools and churches to close their doors.
As the U.S. approaches another spike in virus cases and hospitalizations, Noem said she plans to follow a different path yet again.
“Rather than following the pack and mandating harsh rules, South Dakota provides our residents with information about what is happening on the ground in our state—the science, facts and data,” Noem explained in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
“Then, we ask all South Dakotans to take personal responsibility for their health, the health of their loved ones, and—in turn—the health of our communities.”
The state’s job is not to issue lockdowns or mask mandates, Noem argued. Nor should it shut down important institutions.
“In fact, our state has never even defined what an ‘essential business’ is,” she said. “That isn’t the government’s role.”
Furthermore, over-reaching restrictions have long-term consequences that many government officials have not even stopped to consider, Noem said.
“Daily needs must still be met. People need to eat and keep a roof over their heads. And they still need purpose,” she said.
“That means policy makers cannot have tunnel vision,” she continued. “They must balance public-health concerns with people’s mental and emotional needs, their economic livelihoods and social connections, and liberty, among many other important factors.”
This approach has led to harsh criticism from Democrats.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz accused Noem of allowing the coronavirus to run rampant, and South Dakota Democratic Party Vice Chair Nikki Gronli claimed Noem was “treating these deaths as a joke.”
The numbers, however, confirm Noem’s approach has been more successful than many other states’.
In New Jersey, for example, coronavirus deaths continue to skyrocket. Even after the state imposed a mask mandate and another partial shutdown, hospitalizations increased by 34%.
And in California, which has “some of the harshest lockdown orders in the country,” according to Noem, hospitalizations across the state have increased nearly 90%.
South Dakota’s financial situation is also much better than most states’, Noem pointed out. Her state does not need to take on billions of dollars in new debt, nor will it raise taxes on residents or business, she added.
“Given the oath I swore as governor, it is my responsibility to respect the rights of the people and to manage state operations in a balanced, prudent fashion that reflects the realities on the ground here,” she said.
“I am confident that we have and will continue to come out ahead of many other states in important measures of public health, economic well-being and liberty,” she added.