PIERRE, S.D. — While COVID-19 numbers mount at home, South Dakota’s Republican leadership chastised President Joe Biden’s national COVID-19 vaccination strategy, calling the approach heavy-handed and unconstitutional.
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Gov. Kristi Noem called President Biden a “huge hypocrite” for earlier suggesting he would not impose a national order, and doubled down on a vow she’d made on Twitter to “see [Biden] in court.”
“I'll fight to protect my people,” said Noem.
Earlier on Thursday, Sept. 9, the Democratic president announced plans to direct the Department of Labor to write a rule requiring all employees of private companies who employ more than 100 persons to either get vaccinated with the FDA-approved vaccine or submit to weekly testing for the virus.
Biden said the country's "patience is wearing thin" as the nation remains hamstrung by spread of the delta variant and as hospitals fill up, predominantly with unvaccinated persons.
South Dakota’s governor has largely been muted on vaccination uptake strategies in recent months, telling reporters this summer she'd hit a "saturation level" with public health encouragement to get vaccinated.
Noem and the federal delegation have encouraged voluntary measures and avoided criticizing private businesses in recent weeks, as the state’s two largest health care providers Sanford and Avera have announced vaccination requirements for employees.
“The federal government should NOT be forcing private citizens to get vaccinated. Period,” U.S. Sen. John Thune wrote on Twitter.
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson similarly took to Twitter to announce his opposition to vaccines as intrusive into citizens' private decision-making.
“The president's action crosses the line,” said Johnson. "Effectively, this is a national vaccine mandate."
Both Thune and Johnson reiterated their support for the vaccine.
In his Thursday announcement, Biden said voluntary uptake hasn't been enough to achieve the national level of vaccinated individuals necessary to combat the virus. The U.S., with 53% of its population fully vaccinated, largely trails other advanced nations in terms of immunity, including Canada (69%) and the U.K. (65%).
In South Dakota, after initially leading the nation in vaccine uptake, the state has fallen just shy of reaching much more than half of eligible residents fully vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic.
On Thursday, the South Dakota Department of Health announced 600-plus new cases. The state hasn’t seen a 380-plus new case average since the early days of January.