Kristi Noem goes for triple world record in cherry-picking, finger-pointing, self-congratulation

For most of her article, Noem plays a game of statistical cherry-picking so obvious that even cherries wouldn’t be fooled. South Dakota is doing better than Illinois, because Illinois has “more active cases per capita.” It’s doing better than New Jersey because New Jersey still had more people die. It’s doing better than California, because hospitalizations there are up. Noem then spends the rest of her article talking about how South Dakota is in great shape … financially. 

Here’s what Noem isn’t saying: 

  • 9.8% of all residents of South Dakota have tested positive for COVID-19. The only state that’s higher is North Dakota, where that number is 10.9%. Of the other states she mentioned, the highest would be Illinois, which was caught up in the fall surge across the Midwest and has reached 6.2%. New Jersey is at 4.3% and California is at 3.5%—both states are actually below the national average, which is 4.6%.
  • 1,256 of every million South Dakotans are now dead from COVID-19. That’s worse than Illinois, and almost three times the rate of California, where that number is 507. By playing games with specific time periods and hospitalization rates over specific weeks, Noem is avoiding talking about her own state where hospitals are so full that COVID-19 patients are being flown out of state to the blue state of Colorado, where exactly the measures that Noem smeared about mean that there are still some hospital beds available.
  • The number of overall deaths in New Jersey is worse, at 1,975 out of every million people. But that number hasn’t moved even 0.1% since June. New Jersey is actually one of the pandemic’s great success stories. Slammed in the first days of the pandemic by a disease for which no tests were available and no treatment was known, New Jersey suffered horribly. However, tough action on the part of the government there dropped the rate of both hospitalizations and deaths dramatically. When Noem says that New Jersey had hospitalization rates increase by a third in November, that’s because by six months ago, New Jersey had dropped new cases to one of the lowest rates in the nation. Over the last six months, 2,209 people have died from COVID-19 in New Jersey. That’s 0.02% of the state’s population.

If Noem really wants to compare her state to others, why not pick a small rural state … like Vermont or Maine. Vermont has a population of 623,989. Maine clocks in at 1,344,212. That puts South Dakota’s 884,659 people right about in the middle. But Maine has had only 14,049 total, for the entire pandemic. Vermont has recorded just 5,180. That’s less than South Dakota had this week

Here are the five smallest states by population, along with the cases and deaths:

COVID-19 in the five smallest states by population

State Population Cases Deaths Deaths / POP
Wyoming 578,759 36,985 280 0.04%
Vermont 623,989 5,180 85 0.01%
Alaska 731,545 36,196 145 0.02%
North Dakota 762,062 83,342 1,022 0.13%
South Dakota 884,659 87,038 1,111 0.13%

Two of these things are definitely not like the others. And definitely not like the rest of the nation. North Dakota and South Dakota have exploded with cases. Kristi Noem has a lot of nerve comparing her state to any other when her failures are so obvious, and so huge. A lot of nerve … and a helluva lot of coronavirus.

Don’t worry. Exporting patients to Colorado is keeping her hospitalization rate, and deaths, down. Here’s the Rapid City Journal quoting the son of a man who died, alone, after he was shipped away from an overflowing South Dakota hospital, “We want to bury him in the state that he loved so much but near the end didn’t have room for him.”

Also don’t worry that Noem allowed the tragedy in her state to get in the way of her plans. In addition to signing her name to the latest ghostwritten editorial out of Heritage or some other conservative “think tank,” she had better things to do than deal with people dying in her state.

On Friday, Noem appeared at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Arlington, Texas, taking part in the opening ceremonies by carrying the American flag on horseback. On Sunday, she attended a Georgia Senate debate between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. Noem acted as a surrogate for Loeffler, fielding media questions after the debate.

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