The Republican governors of Iowa and South Dakota are rejecting the increasingly uniform approach of imposing shelter-in-place orders in their states as the Wuhan coronavirus continues its rapid spread across the United States.
“The calls to apply a one-size-fits all approach to this problem in South Dakota is herd mentality, not leadership,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem during a Wednesday press conference.
Noem maintained that the government has no role in keeping citizens locked in their homes, arguing it is instead individuals’ personal responsibility to wisely use the “expansive freedoms” granted under the federal and state constitutions to follow health officials’ guidelines.
“The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety,” Noem said. “They are free to exercise their rights to work, to worship and to play or to even stay home or to conduct social distancing.”
While stopping shy of issuing a statewide “shelter-in-place” order as 37 other states have done, Noem urged South Dakotans to continue social distancing practices and good hygiene as recommended by the White House.
“If I could legislate human behavior, I wouldn’t need a Department of Corrections,” Noem noted.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made a similar argument in resisting calls to issue a statewide quarantine order.
“I can’t lock the state down,” Reynolds said Wednesday. “I can’t lock everybody in their home. We have to make sure that the supply chain is up and going. We have an essential workforce that has to be available.”
Agriculture is the largest industry in each state, with Iowa the nation’s top food producer only behind California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Noem has been consistent in rejecting calls to shut the state down, urging South Dakotans last week to stay home voluntarily instead of waiting for a government mandate to do so.
On Tuesday, the White House issued a stark warning for Americans, announcing that their models show the U.S. epidemic will peak in about two weeks near 100,000 to 240,000 deaths with the current social distancing measures in place. Those numbers, however, exclude the number of people who will fall victim to the economic devastation and extreme isolation that policymakers have introduced to combat the pandemic.
A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week as states continue to close businesses and commit economic self-destruction over the virus. Meanwhile in Tennessee, more people died from suicide in two days than from the virus in the entire state after shelter in place orders were imposed at the local level.