| Kristi Noem |
During the declared COVID-19 pandemic in South Dakota, Noem took a different approach than most other states She did not implement face mask mandates, frequently raised doubts about the efficacy of mask-wearing, encouraged large gatherings without social distancing or mask-wearing, and rejected the advice of the subsection of public health experts that wanted lockdowns.As of December 2020, she was one of few governors who had not issued statewide curfews or face-mask mandates.
By February 2021, the total mortality of all causes in the state was fully in line with the other years in the period 2000-2020.
Sixteen weeks after Trump's executive order that provided enhanced weekly unemployment benefits of $300 as part of the U.S. federal government response to the pandemic, Noem opted out of the program, citing a low state unemployment rate. South Dakota was the only state to refuse the assistance. Its jobless rate in June was 7.2%, up from 3.1% in March, though down from 10.9% in April. Acceptance of the funding required the state to augment the benefit by $100 unless other jobless assistance allowed for the match to be waived.
By December 2020, South Dakota's employment rate had dropped to 3%, lower than before the declared pandemic.