Gov. Noem unveils plan to get “Back to Normal”
Highlights individual rights and responsibilities
PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem on Tuesday, April 28, laid out her plan for returning South Dakota to normal — whatever that new “normal” may be.
Her “Back to Normal” plan places heavy emphasis on individual rights and individual responsibility.
Speaking at the State Capitol in Pierre, Governor Noem said there’s a long way to go before the virus is less of a public health risk. But she praised South Dakotans for what they’ve done so far to limit its spread in the state.
“We are not out of the woods yet, but like I’ve said many times, this is a marathon and not a sprint,” said the Governor. “But it’s because of your smart decision making that we’re in the position that we’re in today.”
Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said there are four criteria that had to be met before proceeding with the Governor’s plan. Those include seeing a downward trajectory in both reported flu-like illnesses and COVID-19 cases, and making sure hospitals and the state have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing capacity.
“The last thing is that we have capacity to help businesses in the state, and that’s beyond the Department of Health,” said Malsam-Rysdon. “But other state agencies and other industry groups play a role in making sure businesses have the guidance and the help that they need to help their workers stay safe from COVID. The last part of the plan is to make sure that’s in place and I’m happy to report that it’s in place as of today.”
The plan itself emphasizes guidelines that Governor Noem has stressed in the past: practice good hygiene, social distancing, and stay home when sick.
For employers, it means encouraging employees to follow those guidelines, but also suggests transitioning away from telework.
Schools are wrapping up the spring semester but are likely to continue distance learning into May.
Although districts have made those decisions to follow the state’s guidelines, under the “Back to Normal” plan, reopening before then isn’t out of the question.
“There have been several districts that said they have some kids they haven’t heard from since school was closed,” said Gov. Noem. “So those kids and their parents we don’t know what they’ve been doing. So this may give them some accountability to bring those kids back in to make sure they get back online with their instruction.”
Hospitals will be told to reserve 30% of available beds and maintain appropriate stores of PPE for COVID-19 patient treatment.
At today’s briefing, the Governor and Health Secretary stressed that South Dakota is still months away from the projected peak infection in the state. State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton said they still expect as much as 30% of the state’s population — more than 265,000 people — to contract the disease, although more than 212,000 of those may have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Much of what’s driving the new plan is the state’s thus-far successful efforts to flatten the curve.
In March, the South Dakota Department of Health estimated as many as 5,000 people might need to be hospitalized at once due to the disease. The latest projections put that number at 2,200.
Both Governor Noem and Health Secretary Malsam-Rysdon say the only way the “Back to Normal” plan works is if South Dakotans continue to adhere to the guidelines even as the state begins to reopen.