Dallas (CNN)South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem questioned the grit and instinct of fellow GOP governors who enacted Covid-19 measures like mask mandates and business closures to stop the spread of the virus in their states last year, warning that some of them are now “rewriting history” about their records as the threat wanes across the country.
“We’ve got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn’t shut down their states; that they didn’t close their regions; that they didn’t mandate masks,” said the potential 2024 White House contender as she drew an implicit but obvious contrast to leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who took a more restrictive approach in their states. “Now I’m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is the right instinct.”
“Demand honesty from your leaders and make sure that every one of them is willing to make the tough decisions,” added Noem, who repeatedly touted her hands-off approach to Covid-19 throughout her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference — highlighting the fact that she never ordered a “single business” to close. “South Dakota did not do any of those (measures). We didn’t mandate. We trusted our people and it told them that personal responsibility was the best answer.”
Even when cases surged in her state last November, Noem refused to mandate masks and chose not to put in the precautionary measures that many other governors were taking to slow the spread of Covid-19. She insisted that her state had been most effective by swiftly identifying and isolating cases. As of this weekend, South Dakota had 230 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — ranking the state 10th in that metric among the 50 states. The state had 14,090 cases per 100,000 people, ranking South Dakota with the third highest rate in the nation.
But in an October op-ed in the Rapid City Journal, Noem rejected “mandatory masking” by noting that some had questioned the effectiveness of masks, calling on each family to make “informed decisions for themselves.”
“As I’ve said before, if folks want to wear a mask, they should be free to do so,” she wrote in that piece. “Similarly, those who don’t want to wear a mask shouldn’t be shamed into wearing one. And government should not mandate it.”
She became a star headliner at the CPAC conference in Orlando in February, in part by taking aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, and insis
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