Noem, defending COVID-19 strategy, cites study that found some steps didn’t have much effect

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A current Stanford University study of common COVID-19 responses in the United States and nine other nations concludes that some had more significant effect than others.

Governor Kristi Noem tweeted about it Friday, saying the findings back up the “back-to-normal” approach she’s taken for South Dakota since April.

Noem quoted from the report’s conclusion that said the study “failed to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures” and added her perspective: “Put simply, lockdowns DON’T work.”

The study, titled ‘Assessing Mandatory Stay‐at‐Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID‐19,’ was published in European Journal of Clinical Investigation.

A study chart summarized effectiveness of COVID-19 counter-measures in England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US.

The authors said they did not find significant benefits on COVID-19 case growth with mandatory stay-at-home and business closures.

“Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions,” they wrote.

The study analyzed whether a policy was significant or not significant in affecting case growth.

Policies deemed significant included social distance and national travel ban.

Not-significant responses included national lockdown, school closure, home isolation, no gathering, religious closure and stop-the-spread guidelines.

Meanwhile an analysis published by The New York Times this week placed South Dakota near the top among states for ‘excess’ deaths since March. The analysis used CDC estimates.

The U.S. average was an 18% increase, the analysis found, with New York City the national hotspot up 66%. States on the high end were New Jersey 34%, Arizona 27%, Mississippi 26%, and four — Connecticut, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota — at 25%.

Others near the top were Louisiana and Texas 24%, Michigan and Washington, DC 23%, and New York (excluding New York City), South Carolina and Wyoming 22%.

KELOLAND News asked the governor’s communications director, Ian Fury, and the state Department of Health spokesman, Daniel Bucheli, several questions about the rankings.

1) These numbers are based on CDC estimates. Does the Noem administration agree with them. or have any reason to question or dispute them?

2) Both Dakotas are in the approximate same spot at 25% more deaths. They are higher than the other five states that are neighbors of South Dakota. Are there any conclusions that could be drawn?

3) Do you have any reason to believe South Dakota will eventually wind up in a different position on this list?

Bucheli responded:

“At a time when COVID-19 cases and deaths are up nationwide, South Dakota continues leading in vaccination efforts— which will ultimately curve our positive cases and deaths downwards. Shots in arms, along with all our other ongoing efforts, will not only protect those most vulnerable across our state but continue to trend us in the right direction. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Governor Noem has fully supported the Department of Health efforts to provide South Dakotans the most up-to-date health information as it becomes available.”

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