Noem won’t enforce federal lockdown, mask mandate

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (By President-elect Joe Biden has floated a nationwide lockdown and mask mandate in response to surging coronavirus cases across the country.

But even if he follows through and orders all Americans to stay at home and cover their faces when in public, don’t expect to see those mandates enforced in South Dakota.

The office of Gov. Kristi Noem said in a statement Friday that the first-term governor, who’s risen to stardom in the Republican Party for her hands-off approach to managing the pandemic, has no intention of using state resources to enforce any federal COVID-19 orders.

“It’s a good day for freedom. Joe Biden realizes that the president doesn’t have the authority to institute a mask mandate,” said Ian Fury, communications specialist for Noem. “For that matter, neither does Gov. Noem, which is why she has provided her citizens with the full scope of the science and trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones.”

Biden, who’s poised to be seated as the 46th president in January, has been critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and has said he favors a national mask mandate. Michael Osterholm, one of Biden’s advisors on health matters, has also said publicly that nationwide lockdown lasting four to six weeks could help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which is attributed with killing more than 240,000 Americans.

Noem reiterated her position on lockdowns Thursday on social media when she said they don’t effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 but have negative effects on businesses and the overall economy.

“We already know that lockdowns don’t stop the spread of the virus. However, they destroy small businesses and jobs, and they make it difficult for families to put food on the table,” she wrote.

As of Friday, 62,327 South Dakotans had been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 568 had died from the virus or virus-related conditions.