- South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said she would use $US5 million in coronavirus relief funds on a tourism ad campaign.
- South Dakota experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases following last month’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which researchers behind one study think might be responsible for more than 19% of all new US cases.
- The state now ranks second in new cases per capita over the past two weeks, with 439 new cases per 100,000 people, but Noem is still encouraging people to visit.
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In the weeks since the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August, South Dakota has emerged as a COVID-19 hot spot.
Despite a spike in infections, Gov. Kristi Noem decided to spend $US5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds on a tourism ad campaign to bring outsiders to the state, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The ad, narrated by Noem, describes South Dakota as the “land of the free.”
“With our breathtaking landscape and wide-open spaces, we’re a place to safely explore,” Noem says in the ad, which she also tweeted. “And with our low taxes, we’re a place to grow. We’re open for opportunity.”
South Dakota: the Land of the Free.
Celebrate what makes America great, and experience the Great Faces and Great Places of South Dakota. pic.twitter.com/lLBW8538Tj
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) August 26, 2020
The state is using funds from the $US1.25 billion it received from the federal government to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the AP.
Following the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which brought hundreds of thousands of bikers â€” many of them unmasked â€” to the Black Hills, South Dakota has reported the second-most new COVID-19 cases per capita in the country, with 439 new cases per 100,000 people, the AP reported.
“The state has counted 124 infections among people who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August but has not released an estimate on secondary infections linked to rallygoers,” the report said.
A study released this week estimated that the Sturgis rally could be responsible for 19% of all new coronavirus cases in the US since it happened. The researchers estimated the public-health cost at more than $US12.5 billion.
Noem, though, still wants to bring people to a state whose tourism industry was already hit hard during a pandemic.
A spokesman for Noem, Ian Fury, defended using the federal coronavirus funds for the ads. Fury told the AP that the state “should absolutely be promoting tourism” because it is vital to South Dakota’s economy, adding, “That’s how people put food on the table.”
Critics described the campaign as a way for Noem to raise her political profile instead of a way to help the state’s economy.
“The way to get our economy going again is to address the pandemic,” Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat in the South Dakota Senate from Sioux Falls, told the AP.
This isn’t the first time Noem’s ad campaigns have sparked criticism and conversation
Last fall, Noem launched a $US450,000 campaign to address the state’s meth problem.
After the head-scratching ads were shared widely, Noem tweeted that it was working. “The whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness,” she said.
- Read more:
- The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally might have led to more than 260,000 new COVID-19 cases, a new paper estimates â€” 19% of the US total in the last month
- Sturgis motorcycle rally attendees lounge in bikinis, pack into bars, and mock mask wearers: ‘It’s like COVID does not exist here’
- ‘It’s literally impossible to stop’: Sturgis, South Dakota, braces as hundreds of thousands of bikers arrived in the middle of a pandemic
- This is what it looks like in Sturgis, South Dakota, where hundreds of thousands of unmasked bikers are partying like the coronavirus isn’t real