South Dakota hasn't been in the COVID news stories the way they used to when Kristi Noem did everything she could to make her state the most dangerous place on earth. Just this week, South Dakota was overtaken by Tennessee as the state with the third most cases per million residents, dropping into 4th place with 146,798 cases per million to Tennessee's 146,816. I predict that South Dakota will probably retake 3rd place soon. How could I know? Well, South Dakota is a low vaccine state-- 48% fully vaccinated. And some the counties are not even close, the worst being:
McPherson Co.- 10% fully vaccinated
Harding Co.- 14% fully vaccinated
Perkins Co.- 21% fully vaccinated
Ziebach Co.- 21% fully vaccinated
Corson Co.- 23% fully vaccinated
Butte Co.- 26% fully vaccinated
Haakon Co.- 26% fully vaccinated
Campbell Co.- 26% fully vaccinated
Mellette Co.- 27% fully vaccinated
Tripp Co.- 28% fully vaccinated
Sully Co.- 28% fully vaccinated
Walworth Co.- 29% fully vaccinated
Hanson Co.- 29% fully vaccinated
Edmunds Co.- 29% fully vaccinated
In the last 2 weeks, South Dakota has seen a 493% increase in cases, but some of the counties are doing far worse. This 7 counties have more than 1,000% increase:
Charles Mix Co.- 1,800 % increase in cases
Todd Co.- 1,600% increase in cases
Meade Co.- 1,540% increase in cases
Lawrence Co.- 1,520% increase in cases
Clay Co.- 1,417% increase in cases
Turner Co.- 1,400% increase in cases
Butte Co.- 1,050% increase in cases
And that brings us to Noem's beloved Sturgis motorcycle super spreader rally in Meade County. Reporting for NBC News yesterday, Ben Kesslen and Joe Murphy reported that 2 weeks after the rally the state reported nearly a 6-fold infection rate. "South Dakota counted 3,819 new cases in the past two weeks, including seven deaths, up from 644 cases in the 14 days preceding it. That makes it the state with the largest percent increase in Covid cases in the past two weeks. The state's rate of Covid-19 infections per capita in the past two weeks is in the bottom half of the country, but it's the sharp and sudden increase in case counts that sets it apart."
And Meade County? They went from 20 cases in the two weeks before the rally to 330 new cases in the two weeks since the rally. Right after South Dakota's horrific 493% rise in cases came West Virginia's 133% and North Dakota's 124%. The half dozen other states with the worst 2-week increases:
New Hampshire +87%
It’s too soon to know if the Sturgis rally, which began on Aug. 6 and ended Aug. 15, had a direct effect on the increase or can be classified as a “superspreader” event, but Meade County is now reporting a 36 percent positivity rate, with about 1 in every 3 Covid tests returning a positive result. The 82 cases the county reported Tuesday was its highest daily number yet, eclipsing the 68 cases it reported on Aug. 27, 2020. (Meade County has reported 3,168 cases and 31 deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the lowest Covid case counts, when adjusted for population, among the state's 66 counties).
From the onset of the pandemic, South Dakota has seen a higher per capita rate of infections than all but two states, North Dakota and Tennessee, per an NBC News tally.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, has been firm in keeping South Dakota open throughout the pandemic, shunning mask mandates, criticizing public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and insisting on holding mass gatherings against CDC recommendations. On Monday, after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and up, the governor tweeted that if President Joe Biden “illegally mandates vaccines, I will take every action available under the law to protect South Dakotans from the federal government.” Currently, 48.4 percent of South Dakota is fully vaccinated, according to an NBC News tally.
In an email Tuesday, a South Dakota Department of Health spokesperson, Daniel Bucheli, said the spikes in Covid cases in the state "are following a national trend being experienced in every state."
"Regarding cases surrounding the Sturgis Rally, our Department has only been able to link 16 cases directly to this event," Bucheli said. "It is important to mention that Meade county currently has a lower vaccination rate than other counties in SD."
A post-mortem of the 2020 Sturgis rally showed it led to “widespread transmission” and Covid-19 cases in at least 25 other states.
“Although the number of cases identified is sizable-- 140 cases per 100,000 attendees-- it is likely that the true national impact of the Sturgis event is underestimated,” said the study, written in part by the CDC, citing asymptotic cases, visitors not reporting rally attendance and difficulties with contact tracing.
And like Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Greg Abbot (R-TX), Noem thinks she can run for president or vice president on this putrid record, which would, of course, be popular in a Party of Death primary but... probably not in a general election, in which normal people are still allowed to vote.