In her Aug. 11 column in the Press & Dakotan, Gov. Kristi Noem advised South Dakotans that most of us aren’t at risk from COVID-19, so we should just “put on our positive pants.” She apparently agrees with the president, who says the virus will magically go away.
Like her reality-denying hero, Noem contradicts herself when she adds that “we need to emphasize facts.” So what are the governor’s “facts”? She says that 95% of us are not at risk. That kids are at particularly low risk, and that “data indicates” that they are unlikely to spread the virus. And that a study — thoroughly discredited by experts — “indicates that hydroxychloroquine may cut the mortality rate in half.”
Here are the sobering real facts: Among advanced nations, only the United States has no control over this deadly virus. Five million Americans have contracted COVID, and 170,000 have died. Ten thousand South Dakotans have fallen ill, and 153 are dead. South Dakota is among the half dozen states where positive virus tests are more than double the rate that might suggest control. Since her Rushmore party, our daily new infection numbers have doubled.
But with her positive pants on, Gov. Pollyanna Noem embraces unprotected mass gatherings — not just the Rushmore fireworks where Trump indulged his narcissistic fantasy of joining actual leaders who saw the nation through perilous times, but the state fair, which neighboring states have wisely put on hold; a concert to mark pheasant season; and the largest mass gathering of careless people in the nation, 400,000 bikers in Sturgis who may carry COVID far and wide.
Perhaps the proposed $400,000 wall around her mansion will make it even easier for the governor to deny reality outside the fence, where the rest of us live. But it would be good if she would put on responsible grownup pants that this time of crisis demands, and lead.