By Mark Anderson
States including South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, and Oklahoma are emerging as the relatively “free states” whose leaders basically trust their people to exercise commonsense Covid-19 precautions without a widespread closing of their economies, without severe home shut-in orders, and without the imposition of heavy fines and jail time, as is being done in what one might call the “slave states.”
The biggest headlines, regarding erring on the side of freedom, have come from South Dakota, where congresswoman-turned-governor Kristi Noem has maintained that she would simply trust the state’s 880,000 citizens to responsibly go about their daily lives without threat or application of stiff fines and jail time that subjugates the people in California, New York, Michigan, and other states enacting oppressive Covid-19 control rules.
And while Gov. Noem has received some pushback for her decision to allow South Dakotans to decide whether to follow the state’s suggestions regarding social distancing and other practices that ostensibly reduce coronavirus cases, this does not mean she’s casual about the matter. When the sponsors of two car races decided to utilize the state’s Park Jefferson International Speedway and New Raceway Park, Neom expressed her opinion that perhaps that’s not a good idea. However, the sponsors voluntarily opted to limit the number of tickets to be sold for each event in order to shrink the crowd and allow for adequate social distancing. Accordingly, Noem said she would not move to prevent the races from happening.
As Noem told news website “Breitbart News” on April 22, despite her decision to refrain from enacting a Covid-19 crackdown, the significant surge in virus cases projected by various predictive models has failed to materialize. Noem explained:
I think we’ve got maybe 60 people in the hospital right now. We have 2,500 beds set aside for Covid-19 patients, but we only have 63 in [the hospital]. . . . We already have cut our peak projections by 75% just putting in place the recommendations I asked people to do, staying at home and [practicing] social distancing. They’ve washed their hands and they’ve stayed home if they weren’t feeling well and called their doctors. Just by doing that, we’ve cut the hospitalization rates by 75%. So, I’ve just been super proud of what the people in South Dakota have done—they recognized that I wasn’t going to dictate to them, that I valued their freedoms and liberties, and that I was going to let them take action on behalf of their families and communities.
Asked why she didn’t institute a state-wide shutdown, she refreshingly replied:
The facts on the ground here did not support shelter-in-place . . . . For me personally, I took an oath to uphold our state Constitution. I took an oath when I was in Congress [in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2019] to uphold the United States Constitution. So, I believe in people’s freedoms and liberties, and I always balance that with every decision that I make as governor. I get overly concerned with leaders who take too much power in a time of crisis. . . .
Noem summarized: “I trust my people. I know that if business owners here are given an opportunity to be innovative, they will protect their customers.”
Meanwhile, at press time Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was facing heavy ridicule for being among the first governors to contemplate a nearly complete re-opening of a statewide economy—with the invective coming largely from the monopolistic medical and media establishments that had prophesied hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of U.S. Covid-19 deaths—far surpassing the current nationwide death estimate of around 57,000. But even that more conservative estimate presupposes that the reported deaths in the count are verifiably linked to Covid-19 as the actual cause. The number is on par with deaths caused by the standard seasonal flu, for which lockdowns have never been considered.
Many frantic, flimsy media accounts have been labeling Kemp as a swashbuckling cowboy intent on kicking open “the saloon doors” and subjecting everyone to a heightened chance of contracting Covid-19 illness, by claiming that working out at gyms, getting manicures and tattoos, eating out at restaurants, or going to movie theaters all would return at the same time.
However, Gov. Kemp’s website, in an April 27 statement, outlines a reasonable regimen of testing and distancing rules, among other precautionary and preparatory measures, that the state has been following all along. And while noting that a recent day of prayer for the state went off well to create a sense of well-being, the statement only mentioned that “theaters may reopen and restaurants and dining rooms, including those at private social clubs, are allowed,” apparently as of early May. That lengthy press release is silent on the reopening of places like gyms and tattoo parlors, where there’s clearly more physical exertion and bodily contact as compared to eateries and theaters.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor. Email him at [email protected].