South Dakota Gov. who didn't impose COVID-19 lockdowns: 'I don't have the authority to do that'

"I know that when you have a leader overstep their authority in a time of crisis, that's really when you lose this country. And I didn't want to be guilty of doing that," Gov. Kristi Noem said.

Updated: August 27, 2020 - 12:03am

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has declined to lock down her state amid the coronavirus pandemic even as other government leaders around the nation issued restrictions that significantly throttled the U.S. economy.

She said that she listened both to health officials and to individuals who informed her about the bounds of her gubernatorial authorities.

"I know that when you have a leader overstep their authority in a time of crisis, that's really when you lose this country. And I didn't want to be guilty of doing that," the Republican Gov. explained during an interview on "The Pod's Honest Truth" podcast. "So I never issued a shelter-in-place, I never closed a business. I didn't even define an essential business ... because I don't have the authority to do that." 

Noem remarked that she spoke "with governors on conference calls all over this country about that and they had some of the same information that I had yet made completely different decisions."

She said that she believes fear played a key role during the beginning of the pandemic, though more recently politics have been involved. During conference calls earlier during the coronavirus crisis, governors who now are lambasting President Trump had praised him for his assistance, Noem explained. And during those calls she found that fear was driving people's actions.

"What I am saying though is that what I heard on those conference calls was fear," she said. "I was shocked and amazed by how fear controlled people and how emotional that they were. And to me it indicated that in this country we've lost faith and the steadfast promise of God's faithfulness in our life every day has real consequences. If you don't have that in your life then your emotions and fear can control you and make you not have the discernment and the wisdom that you need in a time of crisis."

The South Dakota governor also said that no evidence supports the notion that severe restrictions help to protect the public health.

"So, I know they all have the ability to say that they're making these decisions to protect public health, but there is no science that proves that what they're doing works," Noem said. "There is no expert that says these extreme measures that these states are taking and that the data behind it, that it is appropriate. So they are taking extremely restrictive actions to impact their people. And I'm concerned about what that does long term and especially the effect on the election."

She said that Americans must defend their religious liberty, which has been attacked amid the pandemic.

"They are attacking our religious freedoms. And so we need to use every tool that we have to make sure that we still have the ability to practice our faith and to gather as we see fit," the governor said. "And we have directly seen in many of these states where they have allowed other gatherings yet restricted those who want to go to church and worship together."

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