Yesterday’s Washington Post carried an attack on South Dakota and its governor, Kristi Noem, under the headline South Dakota’s Governor resisted ordering people to stay home. Now it has one of the nation’s largest coronavirus hot spots. The Post’s article is popular on Twitter, as liberal “blue checks” use it to express their hope that lots of South Dakotans die as punishment for their temerity in electing a Republican governor.
As governors across the country fell into line in recent weeks, South Dakota’s top elected leader stood firm: There would be no statewide order to stay home.
Such edicts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Kristi L. Noem said disparagingly, reflected a “herd mentality.” It was up to individuals — not government — to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home.”
And besides, the first-term Republican told reporters at a briefing this month, “South Dakota is not New York City.”
I wrote about that press conference here.
But now South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the United States, with more than 300 workers at a giant pork-processing plant falling ill. With the case numbers continuing to spike, the company was forced to announce the indefinite closure of the facility Sunday, threatening the U.S. food supply.
The entire point of the article is that the Smithfield experience proves Governor Noem was wrong not to order a mass closure of businesses.
But wait! It is obvious even to a casual reader that the Post’s attack makes no sense. The article acknowledges that the Smithfield plant had already “been deemed essential by the federal government,” so no order Noem might have issued would have applied to it in any case. The Smithfield experience had nothing to do with Noem’s policy.
One is tempted to stop there. The Post’s attempted smear obviously missed its mark. But let’s continue.
The point of the Post story is to convey the impression that Governor Noem’s reliance on voluntary measures, education, persuasion, and close cooperation with federal agencies, other governors, and the private sector is a failure. Strikingly absent from the Post’s hit job, however, is the bottom line: how many South Dakotans have actually succumbed to COVID-19? The answer: 6, and none have been reported within the last week. South Dakota has one of the best coronavirus records of any state, but the Post didn’t tell its readers that. It would have ruined the narrative.
Next: the Smithfield story is actually an interesting one, but the Post tells us essentially nothing about it. First of all, the Sioux Falls facility is massive. It has 3,700 employees, of whom fewer than 10% have tested positive for COVID-19. The Sioux Falls facility is one of the main pork producers in the U.S., turning out around 18 million servings of bacon, pork chops, etc., per day. You may wonder, why were so many diagnostic tests performed on employees at that plant? The answer is that Smithfield implemented an aggressive program, in partnership with two major hospital systems, whereby anyone who entered or left the facility was questioned and had his or her temperature taken. Anyone who reported having a cough, etc., or who showed an elevated temperature was tested for COVID-19.
Moreover, the Post article conveyed the impression that the Smithfield plant might become a ghost facility, closed forever due to South Dakota’s failure to elect a Democratic governor. In fact, the plant will reopen in a matter of days. During the brief time it has been closed, Smithfield has been working intensively with the Centers for Disease Control, OSHA, and others, and is implementing measures as described by the company:
Smithfield has instituted a series of stringent and detailed processes and protocols that follow the strict guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to effectively manage COVID-19 cases in its operations. These include mandatory 14-day COVID-19 related quarantines with pay as an uncompromising effort to protect its dedicated employees. The company has also relaxed attendance policies to eliminate any punitive effect for missing work due to COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine. In addition, Smithfield is taking many measures to minimize its team members’ risks of contracting COVID-19. These include adding extra hand sanitizing stations, boosting personal protective equipment, continuing to stress the importance of personal hygiene, enhancing cleaning and disinfection, expanding employee health benefits, implementing thermal scanning, increasing social distancing, installing plexiglass and other physical barriers and restricting all nonessential visitors.
None of that made it into the Post story. All of us who like bacon appreciate Smithfield’s rapid return to production.
Next: the Post probably doesn’t care very much about Governor Noem. Its true target, as always, is President Trump:
But the governor continued to resist. Instead, she used a media briefing Monday to announce trials of a drug that President Trump has repeatedly touted as a potential breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus, despite a lack of scientific evidence.
Where to begin? The Post’s ritual assertion that there is a “lack of scientific evidence” supporting the likely benefits of various forms of chloroquine, together with other medications, is ridiculous. The FDA has approved chloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. Did it do so despite a “lack of scientific evidence?” In fact, there is abundant evidence from many international sources supporting the efficacy of chloroquine in various forms and in combination with several other drugs. To take just one example among many, a survey of more than 6,000 international physicians found that Hydroxychloroquine was the treatment deemed effective by the largest number, 37%. So the Left’s oft-repeated “without evidence” mantra is absurd.
As usual, the Left’s smears are boring, but what is actually happening is interesting. Governor Noem has been working closely with President Trump and Vice President Pence to set up the largest clinical trial of Hydroxychloroquine that, to my knowledge, has so far taken place. South Dakota has secured access to a large number of doses of Hydroxychloroquine from the national stockpile to conduct a series of tests, in conjunction with some of the Midwest’s major hospital groups.
There will be two tracks: one will test Hydroxychloroquine among those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been hospitalized. The second will be prophylactic, testing the drug among high-risk populations that have not been hospitalized, like health care workers. This will be a double-blind study that begins with a clinical trial involving 2,000 patients, but could be expanded to as many as 100,000. This study will tell us more about the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine than any other study has done, to my knowledge, to date.
The Washington Post tells us none of this, for obvious reasons. It is called science, and liberals hate it. In my experience, if you start analyzing numbers, if you actually use the scientific method, if you try to figure out what is the best policy rather than what is the Left’s narrative of the moment, you are anathema.
The Washington Post has no interest in science and hardly any interest in public health. Its agenda is obvious to all: elect Joe Biden! How America’s Left came to this sorry state is a topic for another day. For now, let’s applaud Governor Kristi Noem and her science-based, and so far overwhelmingly successful, response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Here is Governor Noem on Fox News, talking about South Dakota’s Hydroxychloroquine trial:
And here is Governor Noem, on the Constitution and the proper limits on government power. This, of course, is what the liberals really hate:
Left-wing outlets like the Washington Post have no interest in accuracy, let alone fairness. Today South Dakota is the target, but really, they hate all of us who don’t toe the party line.
PAUL ADDS: John has written another superb post. I comment only to call out the Washington Post reporter who produced this ridiculous hit piece. He is Griff Witte.