Governor Kristi Noem addresses citizen concerns in digital town hall


Noah R. Mincheff, Opinion Editor

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem held a town hall meeting with Dakota News Now on April 29 to address her proposed plan to reopen the state as well as answer questions from South Dakotans.

Noem focused first on her back-to-normal plan, which she says is about finding “a way to function while the virus continues to work its way through South Dakota.” She aims to make clear that her goals are to find a balance, to restore a sense of normalcy for South Dakota residents while maintaining public health precautions. 

Noem proposes a “step-by-step” reopening process in which counties with no recorded cases for 14 days may begin reopening certain facilities. However, she estimates that Minnehaha and Lincoln county will not hit that threshold until next week. Additionally, she is leaving her executive order in place that vulnerable individuals must remain sheltering at home. She added, however, that she believes South Dakota will experience a second wave of the virus and has cautioned local leaders that if they reopen they need to continue taking precautions against infection and plans to continue allowing local leaders to decide for themselves how to manage their municipalities.

After explaining her back-to-normal plan, Noem allowed viewers to submit questions to the interviewers. One citizen expressed concern about being expected to go back to work next week as part of the reopening, despite him and his wife being part of the vulnerable population. Noem stated that she had advised employers to be flexible with at-risk employees about returning to work, despite the South Dakota Department of Labor’s strict Refusal to Return to Work policy.

A Black Hills area citizen asked about the upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and whether or not Noem was addressing the large scale tourist event in August. Noem replied that she advised local officials involved to continue planning the event but also be prepared to adjust those plans in the case that South Dakota experiences a surge later in the summer.

She also noted the Smithfield Foods, Inc. plant closure has posed a threat to food security and hopes to have the plant reopened in a few days.

Throughout the interview, Noem expressed measured optimism about South Dakota’s projections, repeatedly stating that she had previously estimated a far worse outcome for the state. While she doubled down on not enforcing lockdowns or lifestyle restrictions, she also warned that if South Dakota residents ease up on public health measures, the state will land in a dangerous position a second time.