ORLANDO, FL (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem spoke Saturday at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida.

In her speech, themed around the question of “why America needs conservatives,” Noem began by lauding former President Trump’s economic policies before moving on to discuss South Dakota’s COVID response, as well as leveling criticism at New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and China.

We took a closer look at some of her claims throughout the speech.

Claim 1: “By the beginning of 2020, President Trump had created 7 million new American jobs.

✔ This claim is mostly accurate.

According to a January 2020 update from factcheck.org, the U.S. economy had added 6,688,000 in his first three years in office.

Claim 2: [By the beginning of 2020] “We had the lowest unemployment rate in over half a century,” and “Unemployment rates for Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans reached the lowest levels in history.

✔ This claim is accurate.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted in March 2020 that:

“There were 5.8 million people unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2019, down 341,000 from a year earlier, and the jobless rate declined to 3.5 percent, the lowest rate in 50 years.”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Looking at data from the BLS, unemployment for Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans all hit the lowest rates in 20 years during the Trump administration, with rates for Black Americans reaching 5.2% in August of 2019, rates for Hispanic Americans hitting 4% in September of 2019 and rates for Asian Americans tying their May 2018 low of 2.2% in June of 2019.

Claim 3: [By the beginning of 2020]More than 10 million people had been lifted out of poverty and out of welfare.

➖ This claim is mostly inaccurate.

According to reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017, nearly 40 million Americans were living in poverty. By the end of 2019, this number had dropped to 34 million. The total difference in Americans living in poverty was 5.7 million.

“In 2017, there were 39.7 million people in poverty”

“In 2019, there were 34.0 million people in poverty”


As for the claim regarding welfare numbers, it is more difficult to come to a consensus due to the overlap of participation in assistance programs. Factcheck.org says enrollment numbers in such programs have been decreasing, and this has been a trend since around 2013.

It is possible that 10 million Americans have stopped using individual assistance programs, but the claim that 10 million have been lifted out of poverty is false.

Claim 4: “South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close.”

This claim is accurate.

In looking at state government websites, we found that every other state besides South Dakota has ordered some type of business or worship closure.

Claim 5: “South Dakota never instituted shelter in place, never mandated people wear masks.

✔ This claim is accurate.

South Dakota has not issued a state-wide stay at home order or state-wide mask mandate, though several cities, such as Brookings, Yankton and Sioux Falls have taken it upon themselves to institute mask mandates of their own.

Claim 6: “South Dakota never even defined what an essential business is.

This claim is accurate.

Noem’s administration, along with the South Dakota Dept. of Health, have not defined essential businesses.

Claim 7: “On my worst day, we had a little over 600 people in the hospital.

✔ This claim is accurate.

On Tuesday, November 10, South Dakota had 607 people in the hospital, a single-day record.

Claim 8: “The virus didn’t really hit the Midwest till late fall.

This claim is false.

Fall runs from late September through late December.

In April, Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls became the No. 1 coronavirus hot spot in the United States of America. According to a CDC report, in the span of five weeks, one positive COVID-19 case turned into more than 900.

South Dakota began seeing a real rise in cases toward the end of the summer, with the DOH case count jumping from 38 cases reported on August 1, 2020, to 335 reported one month later on September 1. Cases continued to climb, hitting a peak on November 12, with 1,964 reported cases.

South Dakota DOH

Claim 9: “We never exceeded our hospital capacity.

➖ This claim is partially inaccurate.

This is a complicated claim to dissect and cannot accurately be boiled down to such a simple statement. While overall hospital capacities were never exceeded that does not tell the full story.

In December of 2020, it was reported that COVID patients were being flown out of state for treatment. At the time, on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, both the Sanford USD Medical Center and Monument Health Rapid City Hospital were reporting that their Intensive Care Units were out of space.

In November 2020, KELOLAND News reported that the state was including neonatal beds, which cannot be used as general ICU beds, in the ICU bed count, which led to the appearance of more beds than were actually available.

While total hospital capacity was not over-run, capacity to treat severe cases of COVID did run out in certain areas, effectively putting those systems over capacity.

Claim 10: South Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

✔ This claim is mostly accurate.

According to the most recent seasonally adjusted data from the BLS, in December 2020, South Dakota had an unemployment rate of 3%, tied for the lowest rate in the nation with Nebraska.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics