Trump backs South Dakota governor's handling of COVID-19

FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stands in the crowd on the South Lawn of the White House during the fourth day of the Republican National Convention in Washington. Noem has no plans to get tested for the coronavirus before heading back to the president's campaign trail this week, even though she attended a fundraiser with the president shortly before he tested positive. Noem tested negative for the virus on Sept. 29, a day before the Trump fundraiser in Minnesota.

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday in support of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s hands-off approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic despite a surge in cases in the state.

Trump, who is recovering from COVID-19, retweeted a clip of the Republican governor's speech to the state Legislature Monday with a comment encouraging people to watch her address. Noem, who has carved out a national following among conservatives, is heading back to the president’s campaign trail this week.

“Great job South Dakota!” the president tweeted.

Noem said she provided a blueprint of how to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic without heavy-handed government mandates, telling lawmakers during a special session that she has done a good job in handling the pandemic.

Noem asserted that her approach, including her refusal to issue a stay-at-home order, was the right one, despite a surge in cases in South Dakota, On Wednesday it had the highest positivity rate of any state over the past 14 days, at 23.35%, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. By comparison, the national average rate over the 14 days that ended Monday was 4.7%.

The state recorded 10 deaths, along with 609 people infected with COVID-19. Over the last two weeks, the state has seen the nation's second-highest number of cases per capita, with nearly 645 new cases per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins Researchers.

The Department of Health said it is now including antigen testing in its daily report on the pandemic, meaning that health officials are now reporting “probable cases” from the antigen tests along with “confirmed cases” from RT-PCR tests.

“The distinction between probable and confirmed for the average person is nill because they will be treated the same as being positive for COVID," Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said.

The number of hospitalizations reached a new high Wednesday, with 273 people requiring hospital care.

But Noem has shown no indication of veering from her strategy of foregoing government mandates to stem the spread of infections.

“The mainstream media told us that these steps had to be taken to slow the spread of the virus. Day after day and night after night, they insisted that every decision I was making was wrong,” Noem said. “That I was foolish to trust my people. And I was even sillier to respect the oaths I took. They told me I should shut my state down.”

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