KEY POINTS

  • South Dakota threw a parade for Gov. Kristi Noem because she refused a lockdown
  • She is one of seven governors who did not issue a shelter-in-place
  • The governor defended that there are only 60 hospital admissions in the state
  • South Dakota has almost 2,500 coronavirus cases

A South Dakota businessman organized and threw a parade for Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday to thank her for never issuing a stay-at-home order or lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Noem is one of seven other Republican governors who didn't implement such a safety measure to slow down the spread of coronavirus despite the recommendations from health experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The other states are Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

South_Dakota_Governor_Noem South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is with President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House. Photo: Tia Dufour/Official White House

The parade, which featured hundreds of cars and some firetrucks, was organized by Morris Inc. and its owner John Morris. The governor shared the parade videos on her official social media pages and said the gesture was overwhelming.

"I just want to tell everybody thank you, and thank you to John for organizing it,” Noem said. “Just know that I’m extremely humbled to be your governor, and blessed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Noem said in a March 10 press conference, when five residents tested positive, she will not issue a lockdown. Instead of preventing the economy to thrive, Noem asked establishments to let non-essential employees work from home, while restaurants remained open for just take-out options. However, social gatherings were limited and those in the vulnerable sector were told to take extreme care because of the pandemic.

But on April 15, the meatpacking plant Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls was linked to over 500 cases of workers and their families who contracted the virus. A few days later, 55% of South Dakota's cases came from the facility, forcing a temporary shutdown. To date, the state has nearly 2,500 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.

Calls to put a shelter-in-place grew louder in South Dakota, but the governor still won’t budge. Despite receiving criticisms for her decision, Noem defended South Dakota hospitals have no surge in COVID-19 admissions.

"We have 2,500 beds set aside for COVID-19 patients, but we only have 63 in," Noem said. "We probably, from all of our projections and studying the science behind the virus, we won’t peak until the middle of June," she added. "But we already have done much better than what we had thought would have been hitting our state already.”