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South Dakota, Arizona Governors Resist Coronavirus Restrictions As Cases Rise

Republican governors in South Dakota and Arizona said Thursday that they would not implement more coronavirus restrictions, while Florida and Indiana largely lifted coronavirus restrictions entirely, as GOP leaders move toward completely easing restrictions on businesses and gatherings even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Gov. Kristi Noem

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, center, waves to supporters at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, … [+] Friday, July 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Key Facts

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem responded to a tweet from Rachel Maddow noting that the state has the highest per-capita rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the U.S., telling her to “stop spreading fear” and saying South Dakota’s response had come “without draconian lockdowns.”

South Dakota has no coronavirus restrictions in place, favoring a response based on personal risk and responsibility, and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports Noem has “no plans” to impose a mask-wearing mandate or stay at home order, as the state experiences its worst month for Covid-19 metrics since the pandemic began.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that the state is “open” and is “going to remain open,” even as the state’s health director warned some counties will “go back into substantial spread” by next week.

With new daily cases and deaths down from the state’s peak over the summer, Florida moved into Phase 3 of its reopening Friday—in which capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings are lifted, and local officials cannot order businesses to close—with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis saying officials “can’t just say no” to businesses reopening “and just have people twisting in the wind.”

Indiana will move Saturday into Phase 5 of its reopening—even as the state sees approximately 1,000 daily new Covid-19 cases—in which all capacity restrictions on businesses are lifted and there are no limits on gatherings.

Nebraska ended nearly all of its social distancing restrictions earlier in September despite a rise in Covid-19 cases, and there are also largely no social distancing restrictions in Idaho, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Big Number

22. That’s the number of states where Covid-19 cases were rising between September 15 and 22, as calculated by Axios using data from the Covid Tracking Project and state health departments. The states with the highest increases of cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days are North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah and Oklahoma, according to the New York Times. (Utah, in contrast to some other Republican-led states, has been imposing additional restrictions in some counties due to the increase.)

Key Background

Restrictions on businesses and activities have been a major source of controversy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as President Donald Trump and GOP allies have pushed for businesses to reopen and normal life to resume despite the ongoing public health risk. Governors that have maintained restrictions have faced legal challenges and protests over the business closures, despite studies showing the efficacy of lockdown measures in preventing Covid-19 cases and deaths. The epicenter of the virus in the U.S. has moved to the Midwest in recent weeks, after initially hitting the Northeast in the earliest weeks of the pandemic and then surging in Sun Belt states like Florida, Arizona and Texas over the summer.

Further Reading

State-By-State Guide To Coronavirus Reopenings: Indiana And Florida Relax Guidelines, Pennsylvania Crowd Size Limits Struck Down (Forbes)

Some Arizona counties may return to higher rates of COVID-19, but Ducey says restrictions won’t follow (Arizona Republic)

Noem, TenHaken have no plans to add restrictions as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

Florida reopens: DeSantis lifts remaining coronavirus restrictions (Orlando Sentinel)

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