Apr 23, 2020
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem COVID-19 Briefing April 23
South Dakota governor Kristi Noem held a press conference on coronavirus on April 23. Noem is pressing for more testing supplies for the state. Read the full transcript here.
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Kristi Noem: (00:00)
The report was released this morning. And with all of these individuals and entities, that has been a priority to make sure that that report is out, that it is transparent and that we have an opportunity to get those folks back to work and to get this critical infrastructure business back online as soon as possible. My team at the Department Of Health is going to continue to work with Smithfield and offer any assistance that we can to help them implement the CDC recommendations so that they can safely reopen the plant as soon as possible.
Kristi Noem: (00:32)
I do want to speak specifically to farmers today though. I am a fourth generation farmer, and until I was in public office that’s what I did for my living and my family still continues to do. I know what it’s like to watch your land be flooded out by the weather. I know what it’s like to watch your livestock go through a storm and have tens of thousands of dollars of losses in a year because of things that are beyond your control. This virus is a totally new challenge unlike anything that our producers have ever seen before. And especially in the agriculture industry, there’s a stigma around asking for help. Farmers and ranchers tend to be independent. They tend to think they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and be strong and get through any kind of situation. But I want to remind them that there are people who want to walk alongside them and talk to them and visit with them about the incredible challenges that they’re facing every day. Life is unfair at times and it can be incredibly tough.
Kristi Noem: (01:34)
When you feel like you’re playing with a losing hand and you’re dealing with anxiety and you know that people are depending on you, and that you’re farming and working on land that’s been in your family for generations, some days you may feel like you just need to talk to someone. I’m just letting you know that on the coveid.sd.gov website there are resources. There is a place you can go to talk to someone that can help you, not just get answers to your financial issues, programs that may help you get through, but somebody that may help you deal with some anxiety or depression or lack of hope that you might be feeling today. You do not have to go through this alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally, to reach out to my family because they are in the same boat many times and feel the same feelings that you all do. But also, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, please feel free to reach out on the covid.sd.gov website. There is information there that can help you get through this type of a situation.
Kristi Noem: (02:36)
I also today wanted to touch on some of the federal funding that we’re seeing move through Congress, and just have a honest conversation with everybody about what this means for South Dakota. South Dakota has always been a really thrifty state. We have a fully funded pension plan, one of the best in the nation. We have no income tax. We have no corporate tax. We have a triple A credit rating and a balanced budget, which is required by our state constitution each and every year. Along came this virus and we saw incredible impacts to our state. Now I still need to wait until the first week of May to really find out what our March sales tax numbers are. I’ll have to wait until June for our April sales tax revenues. But what I’m seeing coming in as far as video lottery revenues is a 50% decline. And it’s interesting to me because a lot of times anecdotally what I hear from people is that some of these businesses have still had fairly good traffic.
Kristi Noem: (03:36)
I’m anticipating substantial decreases to our sales tax revenue, which is how we fund state government. Now, 80% of our budget for the state of South Dakota is education and healthcare. Now, Congress did send South Dakota $1.25 billion to us, but they tied our hands on how we can spend it. The only way I can spend this money is on COVID relief. I can’t spend it to replace revenues. I can’t spend it to make up some of the difference that we’re seeing from our economy stalling and people not out shopping and participating and adding some sales tax revenue to our state budget or to our local city and local government budgets as well. So they’re going to feel this pinch as well.
Kristi Noem: (04:21)
Now, this is South Dakota. Really what they’re telling me is that they don’t want me to replace revenue loss. What they want me to do is go out and create a bunch of new government programs. I don’t want to blow more than a billion dollars growing government, creating massive new programs that aren’t really necessary when all I really want to do is make sure that I don’t have to slash teacher funding, to make sure that I don’t have to cancel highway maintenance that is so imperative and important to keeping our economy and industries going in our state. I don’t want to cut funding for nursing homes. But that is the situation that they are putting me in.
Kristi Noem: (04:58)
Now, that is not conservative. It is not conservative to force a governor to spend money in areas that’s not necessary and not allow me just to conduct business in a responsible manner that South Dakota always has. Now we seem to be talking past each other. If you listen to people on TV and if you listen to members of Congress and the White House, they say they don’t want to bail out states that have been irresponsible. I understand that. I do not want to bail out states and their pension funds that are failing because they’ve overspent in the past.
Kristi Noem: (05:32)
I’m not asking for new money. All I’m asking for is the money that they’ve already sent to South Dakota, let me use it to replace revenue loss so that I don’t have to cut teachers, I don’t have to cut education, so I don’t have to stop funding my highway programs and keeping snow plows out there this winter when we need it, and so that I don’t have to cut nursing homes. I need Congress to allow states like South Dakota that have made good decisions, wise decisions, that have balanced our budgets, to make sure that we have the flexibility to do what’s responsible and not have to create more government programs and more spending in order just to access the money that they’ve already given us.
Kristi Noem: (06:12)
Now, I’m going to move on into what South Dakotans can do and how you can help me today. I still need you to download the CARE 19 app. It’s available for iPhones and Androids. That will help me and my staff. We have added so many staff to do contact tracing. You know part of our life being able to get back to normal is going to rely on us being able to get in front of the spread, and a big part of that is contact tracing. So please download that app, save us hundreds of hours and make sure that you’re helping us track the history of where you’ve gone and who you might’ve exposed to this virus if you ever do test positive.
Kristi Noem: (06:47)
I want to focus on something that I found incredibly encouraging, was a story that came out of Avira yesterday. Dr. Katherine Brockmeyer delivered 16 babies in a 24 hour shift. I think that was pretty incredible. I read that story. It was inspirational to me and it reminded me about the newness of life and that there are good things happening across the state and a lot to be thankful for that we can thank God for the miracle of life that is happening each and every day too. So thank you to Dr. Brockmeyer and to all of our medical professionals for all that you are doing, taking care of people who are sick, but also what you’re doing to bring new lives into the world each and every day. With that, I will open it up to any questions that you may have.
Speaker 2: (07:35)
Could you tell us any developments in the southeast corner with the racetrack?
Kristi Noem: (07:47)
It sounds like both race tracks have decided to conduct their races without spectators and I just want to thank them. I think that their response has been wonderful. They’ve worked with our teams really well. I appreciate them making this type of a change. I think it was a good decision. I encourage everybody to hang in there. In a few weeks we’re going to be back to normal when it’s safe to do so. I appreciate them making this type of decision to protect the public.
Angela Kennecke: (08:24)
[crosstalk 00:08:24] Angela Kennecke from Keloland News.
Kristi Noem: (08:27)
Let’s have JP go first and then we’ll go to Angela.
Thank you, Governor. Can you give us an update on how the hydroxy chloroquine trials are going with Sanford Health?
Kim Olson Reisen: (08:42)
This is Kim, all summarized in. The planning continues. We anticipate that the clinical trial arm of the study will be open very, very soon and we will be sure to help get that word out as soon as we’ve got the things in place to make sure that the safety protocols have been reviewed and are solid. The other thing that we’re working on right now is our distribution plan so that people across the state can get access to the medication. And that’s something that the Department Of Health is actively working on. I would also just let folks know that positive COVID patients today can get access to this drug upon recommendation of their providers, so that part of the study is available today. We’re looking forward to seeing results as soon as we have those available.
Angela Kennecke: (09:33)
Yeah. Angela Kennecke from Keloland News. This question is for Governor Noem. We’ve seen you make many appearances on Fox News during this pandemic coverage. Has the video link studio in the Capitol been used for any local TV station interviews with you at all? And who’s responsible for the transmission fees if that has happened or if it were to happen?
Kristi Noem: (09:54)
Whenever there’s a national news hit, those transmission fees are paid for by that national studio, not at a cost to the state of South Dakota. It is available for all local news stations and we have offered it to them several times in the past that I’m aware of. I’m sure my team could give you more details for that. What was the other part of your question there, Angela?
Angela Kennecke: (10:16)
If you were to do a local, have you done any local interviews with television stations across the state and would the local station pay for that?
Kristi Noem: (10:26)
It depends. I’ll go back and look. I know sometimes the local stations send reporters right to peer, but we have made it available to them during snow storms, during the flooding last year, and during this virus and the spread of COVID-19 across the state of South Dakota. We’ve also heavily utilized it for public service announcements. It was incredibly important to me when that studio decision was made that we be transparent with the folks of South Dakota, to be the most connected governor that we’ve ever been, and to make sure that our local news stations and the public had access to their state government and were fully informed. And I think we’re really seeing the benefit of that during this time, especially with this pandemic sweeping across our state.
Angela Kennecke: (11:10)
But in terms of appearing on Kelo or KOTA or any other station across the state in that studio, have you done that yet?
Kristi Noem: (11:20)
I can let my team follow up with you certainly, but I do know there’s been instances in the past where it’s been offered certainly.
Angela Kennecke: (11:29)
Kristi Noem: (11:30)
Steven Gross: (11:31)
Hi there. This is Steven Gross from AP.
Kristi Noem: (11:35)
Steven Gross: (11:38)
So with the release of the CDC report and reviewing it, before Smithfield was closed were they doing enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among workers?
Kristi Noem: (11:51)
Well, I think from looking through the report, it certainly looks like there’s some recommendations that could be done, but they’ve been working well with us, with the CDC, with the Department of Ag, and even the vice president’s been involved to make sure that we’re able to put in some of those recommendations and get it up and running as soon as possible.
Shannon [inaudible 00:12:19] from New Service.
Kristi Noem: (12:20)
Yes, go ahead.
Do you have any guidance or are there plans to provide guidance to county fair managers? I know that’s early for that, but it takes months of planning so I was hoping to see what your take on how county fairs can proceed and then ultimately the state fair.
Kristi Noem: (12:39)
Yeah, we have had some of them reach out to us mainly through their county commissioners. We’ve had discussions about local celebrations that might be happening in our small towns or county fairs coming up later this fall. What I’ve encouraged them to do is to stay flexible, that they can continue planning those events if they happen later into July and August, but also know that depending on this virus and how it spreads across our state that we might need to change how those events happen or if they happen at all. And that’s the difficult thing in the situation that we find ourselves in is it’s incredibly unpredictable. We can follow the science of this virus, but from day to day and hour by hour it may change in how it spreads and how it impacts a community. And we have to be willing to address those as they come up and be flexible in the plans that we’ve already made.
This is Morgan at The Rapid City Journal. [inaudible 00:13:33].
Kristi Noem: (13:34)
Sure. Go ahead, Morgan.
In the CDC report the team couldn’t find any information about the workstations of any of the positive cases at Smithfield. Was it Smithfield, is it Department Of Health’s responsibility to provide that information to them? And I guess could that information also help them release more information about how the outbreak occurred there?
Kim Olson Reisen: (13:57)
Morgan, I think the thing that you need to keep in mind is that when the CDC came on site the facility was already closed for production purposes, so the reason they couldn’t evaluate work sites with workers in them is because there weren’t workers at the plant. So the team definitely was able to review the physical environment and you see some recommendations based on that. But the reference to the specific work site is because there weren’t workers at the facility at the time.
Well, was there any way for them to… I mean for Smithfield or for you to keep track of who was positive and where they were at in the plant as it was still open and functioning?
Kim Olson Reisen: (14:38)
Sure. So the Department Of Health does get obviously information on every positive case, so we have been working with Smithfield to identify where exactly in the plant those positive cases occurred. Yes, that’s definitely information that we would have available to us and will help us in the response to reopen the Smithfield plant.
Governor, Seth [inaudible 00:15:05] here.
Kristi Noem: (15:06)
Seth, go ahead.
I was just going to ask you, one of those two racetracks this morning on Facebook said that their decision to back away from having fans was quote, “Due to the pressure we have been receiving from the South Dakota governor’s office and county commissioners and some others.” But can you tell us anything about the communications that you or your office had with those two tracks?
Kristi Noem: (15:27)
Well, I think both those tracks were very proactive in reaching out to us and working to comply with CDC guidance. And we appreciated their partnership. We answered their questions, worked with them. I know our Department Of Health team communicated with them often and I appreciate their willingness to make this decision and do what’s best for the public.
Did you ask them directly to take these actions?
Kristi Noem: (15:54)
I did not personally. I think you all probably heard me on my press conferences though recommending that people not go, but I did not ask them to make this change personally.
Kristi Noem: (16:07)
This is Lisa with the Argus Leader [inaudible 00:16:14].
Kristi Noem: (16:12)
Sure, go ahead.
Now that the CDC report is out, just wondering what the next steps are in the process and if there’s a timeline set up at this point to reopen the plant.
Kristi Noem: (16:23)
Well, we’re anticipating that Smithfield will be looking at the facility and implementing some of those recommendations. We stand ready to send the Department Of Health to help and walk through the plant and be ready to get it up and online. I don’t see any reason for there to be long delays. We’re hoping to partner with them to open it as soon as possible.
Kristi Noem: (16:49)
Joseph. In the room, we have a question here.
Ma’am, have you spoken with yet… I assume you’re going to, but have… Well, [inaudible 00:16:57] anything. Have you spoken yet with the senators about having them champion South Dakota’s cause to get the government to unearmark, I guess, the money? Because in today’s news there was some insurance companies and claims from other stuff are going through similar things, but there’s precedence where a judge recently said COVID’s like a hurricane, you can’t predict or it’s…
Kristi Noem: (17:28)
Right. Yeah. The question is if we’ve been communicating with our congressional delegation. And we have now for several weeks about some of these bills and asking them for some language, so they certainly understand and have been willing to work with us. Lately it’s been on a daily basis on the challenges we’re seeing here on the ground in South Dakota and I know they’re very familiar with that as well. Any further questions?
Kelda Pharris: (17:59)
This is Kelda Pharris at the American News in Aberdeen. I had a follow up question. DemKota is now attributed or there’s nine positive cases attributed to the beef plant. When does that number become alarming or when would you take more steps to look into that?
Kim Olson Reisen: (18:19)
This is Kim Olson Reisen. I can confirm that we do have nine cases at DemKota. We did have a team at the facility again this morning to help them with potential modifications that they can make to help minimize the spread. We are also working with the community of Aberdeen to ensure that people in that community are getting good information about COVID and what they need to do to stay safe in the languages that they speak, and just working on those community mitigation strategies there. We are working very proactively with the folks and we appreciate the partnership of the DemKota leadership, as well as the mayor of Aberdeen and city leaders there. I think that they’re taking this very, very seriously and have been good partners to work with us on the spread of this disease there.
Kelda Pharris: (19:06)
Got you. Is testing being ramped up for those first contacts then or do they have to be symptomatic?
Kim Olson Reisen: (19:17)
Thank you for that question. Yes. Testing is being made available to anybody that does have symptoms. Having symptoms is still the standard, but we are encouraging people obviously that any close contacts, we’re continuing to do those investigations, making sure that those people monitor their symptoms. If they become symptomatic, we get them in for testing right away. So as we’ve seen with other places where we’ve had an increase in cases, making sure we have the testing available is one of the highest priorities and we have that in place in Aberdeen as well.
Kelda Pharris: (19:51)
Got you. Thank you.
Beth Warden: (19:53)
Beth Warden with Dakota News Now.
Kristi Noem: (19:55)
Yes. Go ahead.
Beth Warden: (19:57)
Yes. April 11th, this question is for the governor, you had indicated if there were employees that were concerned for their safety in the workplace due to potential exposure to the virus and they were concerned that there was not social distancing, not hand washing, that type of thing. That they could contact the department of health, remain anonymous, and that the Department Of Health would look into it. I’ve asked repeated questions about this at multiple press conferences and I’ve been told that there are resources available on the website. I asked yesterday and I was sent two links by email from the Department Of Health and they simply are indicators to wash your hands, cover your mouth, all the CDC guidelines. It appears to me that the state is not making available a resource for employees who could be concerned about their health, any assistance from the Department Of Health. Is there something available for employees?
Kim Olson Reisen: (20:56)
Beth, this is Kim Olson Reisen and I appreciate you raising this question again. I know we talked about this a little bit yesterday on the media call. We do have resources on the website. Again, that’s covid.sd.gov, that are geared towards employers and employees. After your question yesterday we did clarify the specific resources that are available for employees as well so that folks that are looking can find that as easily as possible.
Kim Olson Reisen: (21:24)
The recommendations from the CDC are out there and they are about good hygiene. They’re about social distancing. They are about working from home if possible. Those have been out there for some time. If individuals do have questions about those guidelines they are more than able to contact us at the Department Of Health. We’ve also ensured that folks that are calling our 800 number are getting lined up with any answers to the questions that they might have as well, so that’s another resource for people. I hope that the followup that we provided you yesterday was helpful to you, but if you have further questions, please reach out.
Beth Warden: (22:06)
Honestly, it was not helpful. I’m looking for a resource for employees if they’re concerned about their health on the workplace, not the fact that they need to wear a mask or wash their hands. Governor mentioned that on April 11th that they could call anonymously and the Department Of Health would look at the workplace and check up on that. Is that available or is-
Kim Olson Reisen: (22:30)
That is available and we follow up on a daily basis with contacts of people that have questions about their individual situation and that can be relative to where they work. It can also be relative to this other settings. So that is currently available.
Beth Warden: (22:48)
I called the toll free line they I said that was not a service that they offer.
Kim Olson Reisen: (22:52)
So again, we clarified with the folks that are manning the 800 number for us, how they can help connect people to get the answers to the questions that they have. So thank you for pointing that out and I hope that’s not what you would experience if you call them today.
Beth Warden: (23:08)
Kristi Noem: (23:14)
Further questions? Okay. All right. Thank you everybody. Have a good day.