Rural South Dakota limited shutdown, avoided economic turmoil as seen in Vermont

While Vermont faces economic woes unseen in recent history due to Gov. Phil Scott’s shutdown mandates, one state with a similar rural landscape and population has taken a very different approach to mitigate the coronavirus without devastating its economy.

Since the declaration of the pandemic, South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, has bucked the trend of state leaders declaring a state of emergency and shutting down businesses and freedoms. Six months later, the results in the Mount Rushmore State are a low death count and strong economic reports.

“I trusted my people, they trusted me, they took personal responsibility for dealing with this virus and we’re doing very well,” Noem told Fox News earlier this month. “Not only do we have one of the lowest death rates, we have got about 40 people who are in the hospital today statewide, our infection rates are low, our job losses is low, our economy is doing better than virtually every other state.”

Gage Skidmore

THE LAST FREE STATE?: Unlike most other governors, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem chose not to impose strict COVID-19 shutdown measures on the state’s businesses and residents.

Noem continued that such results could have been possible in other states but “the governors just made the wrong decisions.”

The economic performance of the two states since the onset of COVID-19 differs greatly. South Dakota ended its fiscal year in June with a $19 million surplus, which includes revenues that came in lower than expected. In contrast, Vermont ended the same fiscal year with about a $146 million shortfall and $430 million in predicted shortfalls for the next year according to state economists.

South Dakota, which has a population of about 885,000 residents, also had lower unemployment levels compared to Vermont. In April, during the peak of the shutdown, the state’s unemployment rate hit 10.9 percent while Vermont’s skyrocketed to 15.6 percent. Unemployment in the Green Mountain State decreased to 8.3 percent in July, but South Dakota decreased even lower to 6.3 percent.

David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told True North about how his state let local communities, businesses and schools dictate their own COVID-19 policies instead of imposing rigid one-size-fits-all restrictions on all counties.

“I think the governor is allowing areas to respond according to what they observe in their own communities,” he said.

Restaurants are a sector in Vermont that is facing dire economic outlooks; the Green Mountain State could see 85 percent of its restaurants close due to government regulations. Gov. Scott continues to limit indoor seating capacity to 25 percent, while South Dakota has simply asked restaurants to follow CDC guidelines on the separation of tables.

“A lot of them are open. They are spacing tables out and doing the social distancing and they have signs that say wash your hands and that kind of stuff,” Owen said.

South Dakota is also taking a very different approach from Vermont to reopening schools. While Vermont is mandating masks for kids as young as age 3, in South Dakota schools are allowed to set their own policies.

“That’s up to the school districts to kind of regulate,” Owen said. “I have a 15-year-old son who is a sophomore and I think his high school is asking them to wear masks as they transit in the halls, but not in the classrooms.”

While Vermont canceled most of its state fairs and holiday parades, South Dakota has not shut down cultural events. The state recently hosted a motorcycle rally in Sturgis which drew more than 460,000 vehicles. Owen said this is a tradition that was not going to be stopped by any virus.

“The part of that that has not been as prominent in the media reports is that more than half of those people were coming anyway,” he said. “Sturgis figured, ‘Oh my god, they are coming, we may as well do what we normally do so we can manage them and our exposure and that kind of stuff.'”

The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation has a community survey that details how South Dakotans are dealing with COVID-19 and the subsequent economic and lifestyle changes.

The survey reveals that while residents are not being forced to comply with mandates such as mask-wearing and distancing, the majority of residents are practicing these things on their own accord. This includes 85 percent are practicing distancing and 58 percent are still using masks.

One consistent trend with both states is the vast majority of deaths are among the elderly — very few residents middle-aged or lower pass away. Of South Dakota’s 165 deaths, 75 of them are over the age of 80 and just 16 are under the age of 50. Of Vermont’s 58 deaths, three are under age 50, and just 13 of them are under the age of 70.

Noem also told Fox that she worries about the impacts of the mainstream media coverage of the coronavirus.

“I worry about these kids that turn on the news and hear their parents talking about being scared they hear news anchors talking about being worried and doctors, we wonder why our kids are struggling with anxiety,” she said. “Let’s be optimistic.”

South Dakotans at one point were so appreciative of Noem’s resistance to the lockdowns that they threw her a parade in her honor.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore

48 thoughts on “Rural South Dakota limited shutdown, avoided economic turmoil as seen in Vermont

  1. Anyone commenters check out Kansas’ deaths for today, December 30? 193 today, in a twenty-four hour period. A very real state that refused lock downs, required masks and social distancing. It is a red state, wholly subscribing to Trump’s covid-19 ideologies. An article from 4 weeks ago designed that many confirmed covid patients get life flights to hospitals in Nebraska and Iowa due to all be in all their medical centers are full. Up until that time, a person wearing a mask in public was harassed, even called a commie. Businesses that required masks for service were boycotted. This state is as rural as VT, perhaps more so. Their current total deaths are 2,741 compared to VT’s 134. It would seem VT has the lowest total deaths in the nation for good reasons.

  2. Relative to the comments regarding fake data being listed as cause of death, ref multiple Cov-19 deaths,instead of actual cause, DH is a contributor to this, for another illness.At Dartmouth there is a Norris Cotton Cancer Center. My father was riddled with cancer from smoking and died. On his death certificate they stated as the cause of death being heart failure.

    In a very minor aspect, true. Don’t all people die of heart failure? The medical establishment wants to keep cancer deaths low showing the medical establishment is making progress. BULL.

    Also don’t the hospitals get $38K for each Covid-19 patent? To make money, aren’t all patents Covid-19? It;s a money game. Fake news.

    • I would like to see the articles describing what hospitals get for covid deaths. I’ve heard the rumors but have never seen any reports to prove them.
      In 1970 my first child was hospitalized for a fever seizure, kept overnight for observation and released the next morning. It cost over $500. My second child had a kidney removed in 1994 and stayed a week for recovery and then released. It cost over $38,000. If hospitals get $38K for every covid related death, and the majority are elderly with only Medicare for income, then I have to reason the hospitals are losing money. If the average individual stays in ICU care for a week, on a ventilator before succumbing, it’s gotta cost more than $38K.

  3. The US economy is doing very well.
    The likely result of Trump’s management, including decreased regulations and tax burdens.

    That is not so true for Vermont’s anemic, near-zero, real-growth economy.
    The private sector has been emaciated for about 15 to 20 years.
    It appears to have a lack of RESILIENCY, i.e., difficulty with bouncing back, due to:

    1) Overly restive mandates
    2) Too high taxes, fees and surcharges
    3) Too many rules and regulations stemming from excessive/oppressive bureaucratic command and control.

    The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, while unemployment fell to 8.4%, according to Department of Labor data released Friday.

    Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 2.8 million to 13.6 million. The unemployment rate fell below 10% for the first time since April when the rate reached 14.7%.

    “Employment in government increased by 344,000 in August, accounting for one-fourth of the over-the-month gain in total non-farm employment,” the report said.

  4. Quite a piece here. I think Gov. Kristi Noem handled this scamdemic the right way from the beginning. She was most likely let “in on it” (as I’m guessing all governors were) and made her decisions accordingly. Too bad tiny VT who thinks they set the precedents for the whole world didn’t follow suit … oh, I forgot, Kristi is a Republican. Ms Stone seems to be very alert. It’s amazing to see people who you thought were strong independent Americans/Vermonters, any state USA who are so easily pushed into compliance. Sad actually, it is a reset, it is about the failed systems, FEMA’s got triple decker trains, and the seats suck. Let me know how the ride goes.

  5. “As the U.S. Centers for Disease control shifts its guidance on testing, Vermont’s top public health official told Vermonters on Friday that the state’s own guidelines, which call for tests on many more individuals, are holding firm.

    The CDC on Aug. 24 changed its guidance to recommend that people who don’t have symptoms might not need to be tested, even if they have spent 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who is infected with the Covid-19 virus.”

    Pants around ankles much? Following science and CDC guidelines? Uh huh. Making it up as they go along as numbers continue to plumment because first and foremost must be made to look much more serious than it is. And need to continue their manufactured “crisis” as typical Tin Pot dictators must have continued optics purporting to be capable managers clearly in love with the attention-seeking limelight.

    • Just as the Democrat Party cannot let go of facing Donald Trump won the election – these bumbling self-important grandstanding morons cannot let go and recognize they are not only wrong now but were on a fools errand all along:
      “The whole strategy of containment — testing, isolating, contact tracing, and quarantine has been fundamental to our success in Vermont and needs to continue underpinning its success,” Levine said. “And you can only do that if you have a sufficient number of people in the state tested, who have no symptoms.”

      Epic fail much *facepalm*

      • Not just manufacturing the crisis but attempting to keep the numbers up to legitimize deeply dishonest attempt to place our state under tyrannical control using businesses, workers and our youth as pawns. Should be run out of our state on a rail.

        • Suggest the folks compare a map of South Dakota with one of Vermont. Population densities in Vermont are more numerous and closer to each other than those in SD. Can’t help but wonder if this just might have some bearing on the difference in outcomes when comparing the two state’s approach with dealing with the virus.

  6. A lot of people are saying they are happy with how the Governor handled this.

    I worked in a nursing home for over 10 years and I’ve been saying all long “THERE IS NO Emergency!”
    The Flu goes through nursing homes every year and does exactly what this did- but most people don’t work in nursing homes so they don’t know all of this. And so does the norovirus, common colds,scabies, head lice and every other darn thing that we have going on out here. You literally can watch this stuff go right up the hallway room by room. It happens every single year.
    And as long as humans are caring for other humans, there is little that we can do to change all of this. A robot can’t take care of your grandmother. All we can do is our best, but it is what it is. This is the cycle of Life.
    When you get old, you are going to die. It’s going to be a disease or something very simple like a fall that you’ll die of. People seemed to have forgotten that *ANY* Disease you get such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, they ALL put you at risk. They all mean that something is not right and now you are vulnerable. So these people are at higher risk, but this is certainly not most of us in this condition.
    They are at higher risk now for *MANY* things! Diabetics are at risk for blindness so should they be forced by the government to wear sunglasses? I mean wake up people!

    Another thing is that people are being exploited because they don’t understand the human body, how it works, how virus effects us, what are immune systems are and do.. all of this.

    Vermont, NH, Maine, all of us up here, we live very healthy lifestyles up here. We get a lot of exercise just living and doing what we do for fun up here. We breathe in good air, we drink good water. We eat good food. We get plenty of sleep because there ain’t a damn thing to do at night in most places. Contrast this with the life of a city person that goes around the clock.
    All of this means that we have very good immune systems and they are designed to fight off this very thing. Our low numbers are a reflection of healthy people with good immune systems!!
    People that live in cities on top of eachother, eating 3 meals a day in restaurants, existing on bottled and city water. They breathe in smog all day. We are doing better up here because there is much less of the virus here, we are spread out, the bug dies at a certain point when no one is around for it to move too to keep it alive. This just naturally happens because of how spread out life is up here.
    The weather is different, and WE as people are healthy and strong- for the large part.
    It’s quite possible that we could have done damn near nothing and still had similar numbers.
    So lets not praise the people that crashed our economy, and that over reaction then caused a lot of social issues that will and are killing people.
    The government has grossly over reacted. It did this because of media hysteria and a whole lot of FRAUD being fed to them and the people.

    Young people cannot even figure out how they are going to make a life up here now.
    Parents can’t even figure out how they are going to work, educated their kids and keep them fed with a roof over their head. The states are in debt now up to their eyeballs, another security risk.
    THIS is certainly no success on the part of the government to have created this situation. You don’t destroy our civilization to kill a flu bug for crying out loud and this is what they have done.
    We need to end this lunacy and now.. people are going to freeze to death this winter.
    Good Grief, get over it. Who even knew about the Swine Flu? Were you cowering in fear over that?
    Hunger, drug use, suicide, education, the medical situation.
    The focus needs to now be 100% on the clean up of this mess.
    South Dakota understood all of this and didn’t take the bait is what it all boils down too.
    They were *FREE* enough to Not Take The Bait.

    • Is this the way it went down in 1918? S Dakota has had ten times more covid related deaths than VT. The only country that did it right has been New Zealand.

      • one mans statistics is another mans lies…

        South Dakota had 0.0002 of population die
        Vermont had 0.0001 of population die

        both numbers are very, very low

        • Must be most who accept the morality of the percentages of mortality haven’t lost anyone close to covid-19. 1,464 deaths in SD is still a lot of snuffed out lives. Besides, the percentage of mortality for SD is 0.002, and for VT it is 0.0002. SD’s deaths per capita is 1655/Million and VT’s is 215/M.

  7. Don’t get me wrong. I think South Dakota’s governor is a breath of fresh air. But how can I believe any of the data given the financial incentives to cook the books? Example:

    “Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate. Why? Because if it’s a straightforward, garden-variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for – if they’re Medicare – typically, the diagnosis-related group lump sum payment would be $5,000. But if it’s COVID-19 pneumonia, then it’s $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000.”

    • Jay,
      Hospitals like to make as much money as possible.

      If COVID, federal payments, insurance payments, etc., likely are 3 to 4 times of a straight-forward pneumonia patient.

      So there is a big FINANCIAL incentive to claim “COVID”.

      That makes COVID look worse than in reality, and the US Media build it up even more to keep the scare-mongering at a high pitch; all that to make Trump look worse than warranted

      • Another anecdotal reference to our current dystopian healthcare system. My wife and I recently had exactly (I mean precisely!) the same medical procedure. She used healthcare services in NH and MA. I used services from a hospital in VT. We both have Medicare and the same supplemental and drug insurance. My wife paid $12 out-of-pocket. I paid $1200 out-of-pocket.

        Why would anyone double down on expanding government run healthcare for all when discrepancies and government incentives are this dysfunctional?

        Oh. And did I mention that the VT hospital had declared bankruptcy a few months earlier?

        Hello Venezuela……

      • Apparently the idea that hospitals are making money hands over fists is exaggerated. Otherwise, why are people being billed huge sums for their covid related hospitalizations. With so many people out of work, they don’t have insurance. And if the majority of deaths are as insinuated, over seventy years of age, there is only Medicare, which is strictly regulated on how much it pays out.

    • Go go read Zerohedge for a while Jay.
      This ain’t about a stinkin’ flu.
      It’s a controlled collapse of the debt bubble.
      It’s a reset.
      This is about Money, a failed Fiat system, and a massive infiltration now of China.
      Go look up Pompeo’s speech to the Governor’s that he did. He directly told them and warned them about this.
      THIS is what this is.. this virus thing is a scam.
      South Dakota was able to handle this differently because they are not smothered in corruption like we are up here.
      That is what Freedom looks like.

  8. One of the things I have learned as a Selectboard Chair is that it always easier finding solutions when you are outside then when you have the responsibility to managing things. Kinda like the old saying about how in a town of 1,000 people they always seem pick the one person as Road Commissioner who does not know how to fix the roads.
    I do not agree with Governor Scott on everything, but I have been very impressed with how he and his team have handled the Covid-19 crisis. A crisis for which there was no game plan and continued many moving parts. His twice a week press briefings are a model of openness and how government should be responding. Scott continues to be criticized from those on the left and right and it is clear the teachers union, VPIRG, and the Democratic leadership would like to be rid of him. If I may be excused from one more saying, “You don’t know what you got till its gone”.

    • John,

      Dem/Progs want to get rid of Scott, etc., because they cannot stand it, to not have TOTAL CONTROL OVER THE GOVERNMENT AND USE THAT CONTROL TO COMMAND, MANDATE AND TAX VERMONTERS.

      It is a Mafia-style extortion racket inflicted on Vermonters for decades, in the name of some cause, such as “fighting” global warming; Don Quixote tilting at wind mills comes to mind.

      • Willem,
        I agree with you that the Dem/Prog want to have total control over government and to use that control to command, mandate, and tax Vermonters. Unfortunately, I see Donald Trump wishing to also have total over the federal government . Like our founders, I think a separation of powers and not too much control by any faction is the best for our state and country.

        • May I suggest you brush up on constitution and civics sir. Mighty selective with ‘facts’ – Donald Trump has in fact taken a wrecking ball to the total control of, ruination and havoc wreaked on our nation by President Hussein. And our VT legislative Marxist mob-rule counterpart in Congress wishes to have total of every aspect of our lives – and if you are not calling them out as well as the controlled demolition of our nation you are part of the of problem.

          Tho appear to have failed to accept this – Donald Trump won an election and he is our president. And he does have control over the executive branch with its many powers and to enact EOs just as the Marxist Manchurian he succeeded. Paris Accord is *not* a treaty nor was Iran a valid deal but Chairman Barack expected wicked-witch Killary to be installed so he didn’t prioritize working with Congress but infamously said “I have a phone – and I have a pen” clearly to bypass congress each time he could not get his wicked way.
          Dark-moneyed by Soros-aligned Bolshevick Bernie opposition has foolishly chosen to make Hidin Biden a puppet potus ceding control to the most radical elements in government and Marxist agenda ever proposed.

    • JF:”His twice a week press briefings are a model of openness and how government should be responding. Scott continues to be criticized from those on the left and right and it is clear the teachers union, VPIRG, and the Democratic leadership would like to be rid of him. If I may be excused from one more saying, “You don’t know what you got till its gone”.”

      Woefully out of touch much? Patently false and completely untrue sir. None of the above wish to get rid of him bc he is between the sheets with all of them and is about as dirty a politician as there is hiding his evil behind a sunny smile. And we do know what we had bc it *is* gone! And the evil Democrat Party parasytes continue a reign of terror and locust-like devouring of everything in our state.

      Sorry about your election loss – call me unsurprised – my crystal ball was correct lol? Of course you support Chairman Phil – he’s a typical Marxist as are vast majority of supporters and vote under the Democrat Party banner just as you do.

      He and his “team” have completely mismanaged the Scamdemic as have most other Democrat governors and march in sociopathic lockstep. He has abused the process, shredded state constitution and ruined our state. Caused businesses to close some of which will never reopen and greatly reduced the income of already struggling business owners.

      Anyone who sides with and shows such a callous disregard for the suffering of our state, those who lost loved ones and the dead who were denied HCQ as our jack*ss governor and sidekick DOH Levine ride herd over our state needs to look in the mirror.

    • To insist that those on the left want him gone bears no weight whatsoever. If that were the case, the state AG would oppose him on many of his edicts & policies and he would find no support within the Legislature. I’m very grateful you no longer are part of government, since you find no problem with Chairman Phil’s actions to eliminate our God-given rights as humas, as well as our liberties guaranteed by the constitutions. I With Republicans like you, Scott, and Romney, we are in serious trouble, not only as a political party, but as a nation.

    • By now it seems clear that the virus is going to do what it’s going to do, whether we wear masks and shutdown or not. Sweden at this point is doing better than NY State.

      Plain fact is, as commentator Laura Stone said, respiratory viruses kill millions each year. That’s just the way it is.



    Here is a STUNNING CDC update on COVID19
    US Deaths from COVID overestimated by 17 times!!!

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just released a tranche of new data about the coronavirus.

    Far and away the most interesting statement is this one:

    For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.
    For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.

    Now, per the same document, we’ve had 161,392 deaths WITH coronavirus up to August 22nd, meaning that the virus was detected either while they were alive or at autopsy.

    But only 6% of those people actually died of the coronavirus alone … meaning that we’ve had about 9,680 people who died of Coronavirus-19.

    And that is a nationwide death rate of 0.003% …

    As for the rest of the fatalities, on average, they had two or three PRE-EXISTING “co-morbidities”, other diseases that might or might not have killed them.


    • That’s logical. It’s the same to say, if a drunk driver causes a head on collision where by the victim dies, but he has a bad heart, or diabetes, or morbid obesity, or epilepsy, or COPD, then the drunk gets turned lose because the victim died from an underlying issue. Covid has been kind to Vermont and most rural states, so it’s easy to thinks this virus is not serious. If you nay sayers wear masks then you’re hypocrites. That’s plain and simple logic.

  10. South Dakota has about 10 times the area of Vermont.
    People are more spread out.
    Plus no infected visitors from MA, NY, CT, etc.

    Dartmouth-Hitchcock, 14,000 employees, has ONE patient in a bed with the virus; this from a D-H board member

    It looks like VT is restricting beyond reason!!

    How much damage does one do to the VT economy to satisfy the Dem/Prog scare-mongers, who use the VT Media to fan the virus flames and fan the BLM flames in Dem/Prog-run cities all over the US.?

  11. It’s the difference in political styles and ideologies,Benedict Scott is a Leftist and Kristi Noem Constitutional conservative,it’s that simple and Leftist’s always lean towards totalitarian tyranny every time.

  12. After my “Live Free or Die” NH state motto,
    South Dakota is surely the next best: “Under God The People Rule.”
    And even better than that, they have a Governor that fully honored that state motto.

    Stardust, are you ready to plan a bus tour with me?
    I got quite a few here in N’Hampsha ready to go.

    • Must admit looks too good to be true and yeah I’m tempted LS – if wishes were hosses much? My heart is in “Live Free or Die” and we need many more to fight for N’Hampsha! VT is a lost cause – possibly open a refuge camp for campers where ppl can go until they are able to relocate? Live for the required 6 months and one day to declare NH home state? So many dictatorships so little time *Sigh*

  13. Great job, Governor Kristi Noem! What a breath of fresh air you are! A Governor that TRUSTS her people to make good decisions!! I hope you’ll consider running for President in 2024!

  14. Wow what a smart Gov Kristi Noem is, and what a puppet Gov Scott is. The difference between them, Kristi Noem didn’t have greedy democrats legislators like we have..ours are the puppet masters of Vt

  15. I wish al, the nea sayers about Governor Scott’s dealing with Covid-19 would just step back, take a deep breath and take a look at Vermont’s standing on the Covid scale. We’re number 1 in terms of low virus infection. You will note that the prefix to Soult Dekota was “rural” emphasizing the vastness and open spaces. Governor keep up your good works!!!!!

    • I wouldn’t call Scotts work good.. Our economy is in the pot. Many businesses are gone for good. even some of the businesses thats left are thinking of closing because of Scott extending the shutdown to 25 %.The Govenor and Lt Gov and the greedy legislators still got their paychecks they didn’t lose their jobs. The greedy legislators were under the golden dome fighting over the money from the Fed Government, wanting the money for their pet projects. Face the facts the legislators are GREEDY…. They even wanted a raise..even during the shutdown..Scott is a spineless coward who can’t stand up to the legislators The NRA people aren’t the only ones who are not impressed with flip flop Scott handling of Covid19.

      • Agreed Donna.
        He killed a mosquito with a sledgehammer.
        We feel the same way over here in NH with Gov.Chris Sununu.
        He’s done better than yours, but our Constitution has been suspended and our Rights have been wrongly stripped from us and we ain’t too happy about it at all.

        “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty..” -Benjamin Franklin

    • Destroying the state’s economy over fewer deaths than we normally have in highway accidents is a ‘good job’?

      Trampling on our rights by executive order is a ‘good job’?

    • As if Vermont isn’t rural. Gilhooly obviously isn’t aware – or simply ignores – the news that 94% of the fatalities attributed to the Wuhan Flu by the CDC in the United States are actually from other causes, primarily afflictions the victims already had, such as diabetes and COPD. Only 6% of the reported deaths are directly from the Wuhan Flu. So it is NOT a pandemic and Chairman Phil used it as a cover for his total control over the citizenry. That makes him a totalitarian, and those do not have any true concern whatsoever for people.

      Keep it up, Gilhooly. You’re only making your hypocrisy shine in the spotlight.

    • OK I have said this before. WAKE UP!!! it is because of the way we live. Not crowded cities, not one on top of the other, as in the 6 + level apartment buildings where the virus went up thru the plumbing system as shown in some testing. Being out doors is the best place you can be.

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