To the Editor:
Last week, South Dakota announced that new, faster COVID-19 test kits would allow for 720 tests to be conducted in the future to supplement current testing. The governor’s office posts no data on confirmed cases and testing, and as of last week links that promised data were all dead except for one giving projected total infection rates of ~ 600,000. Even those have since disappeared.
Currently I’m in the German state of Thuringia (pop. 2.1 million, where many family names are the same you’d find in South Dakota phonebooks). According to the state government’s liveblog, as of April 13, Thuringia was conducting around 10,000 tests each week in 9 labs across the state. As of April 23, the city of Jena (pop. 110,000) has had 155 confirmed cases, 130 recoveries, and 3 deaths. The 155-figure has held steady for the past 10 days, which feels like a miracle, but the reasons are clear.
Federal and local authorities adopted restrictions on movement and social distancing measures in mid-March, repeatedly explained their rationale to the public, and paid businesses to retain employees, averting a spike in unemployment. Jena was the first city in Germany to require masks in enclosed public spaces. As in the US, people help friends, family, and neighbors at risk. Nobody pretends these measures have no economic impact, but it’s striking what a difference it makes to have competent and unified leadership. When announcing the reopening of parts of the economy last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said simply: “What we’ve achieved is an interim success — no more, no less. And I stress that it is a fragile interim success.”
Last week I wrote to Gov. Kristi Noem expressing concern that she was failing her constituents. I received an email from her office saying “Keep in mind this a marathon, not a sprint;” describing South Dakotans as “absolute rockstars.” COVID-19 is not a sport and this is not a concert. It’s a humbling test of our ability to keep people alive and healthy. The people of South Dakota deserve real information and above all better leadership
Mitchell High School class of 1993