Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., defiantly batted back criticism of her state’s handling of COVID-19 — insisting she listened to advice of her health experts, and slamming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for repeatedly changing recommendations.
In a combative interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” Noem declared that “what I did was tell my people the truth.”
“You said I ignored medical advice, and I didn't listen to my health experts. I most certainly did,” she told host Margaret Brennan.
“I gave [residents] personal responsibility over decisions for their family's public health, but also gave them the flexibility they needed to keep their businesses open, and to take care of their businesses and customers,” she said.
“What I am against is mandates that will tell people what they have to do,” she added. “I want people to make those decisions for themselves. We've seen the CDC change recommendations over and over and over again. In fact, we've seen them do it just based on political pressure. We follow the science, the data, and the facts in South Dakota to make our decision.”
When Brennan pointed out the CDC data shows South Dakota with the eighth highest death rate per 100,000 residents in United States, Noem shot back: “Why aren’t you asking [New York Democrat Gov. Andrew] Cuomo those questions.”
“Our state peaked earlier than other states, than [West Virginia], than New York, than California, Noem said. “They certainly are seeing much higher infection rates, much higher hospitalization rates and much higher deaths to date than we are… Those are questions you should be asking every other governor in the country.”
When Brennan replied, “I'm asking you,” Noem responded: “I’m answering you.”
“Regionally, we have seen the virus hit the country very differently. And it hit the Midwest earlier than it did the South, and now the East Coast and the West Coast,” she said of the second wave of COVID-19 in the late fall and winter.
“South Dakota went through our highest rate of infections and implications earlier. And the rest of the country is dealing with much higher numbers today,” Noem said.
“My question is, if we had mandated that people had to stay home, if we had mandated that businesses had to be closed, would that have made a difference? And I would argue that it wouldn't have,” she added.
“We took this virus very seriously, but I also let them look locally at what was the best actions to take to protect their health, but also keep their businesses open and protect the economy that they were dealing with,” she said.
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