South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is using coronavirus relief aid for a $5 million tourism ad. CBS News reports that Noem's ad comes at the same time that her state became a hotspot for COVID-19. Recent data ranks South Dakota second in the nation for new cases per capita over the past two weeks, with 439 new cases per 100,000 residents.
In the ad, which Noem narrates, she praises her state for its "breathtaking landscapes and wide-open spaces" that she believes make it "a place to safely explore" amid the rising cases of coronavirus. "Celebrate what makes America great," Noam adds. "And experience the great places and great faces of South Dakota." After being criticized for the ad, and for using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for it, Noem's spokesperson Ian Fury defended the governor by arguing that she "should absolutely be promoting tourism" due to the state's reliance on it for economic stability. "That's how people put food on the table," he stated.
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
One of the biggest causes of South Dakota's rise in COVID-19 cases stems from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that was held in the state in August, and featured concert performances from bands like Smash Mouth and Quiet Riot. According to a report from NBC News, the 10-day rally attracted more than 400,000 people. The massive festival is being referred to by experts as a "superspreading" event that may have been the source of more than 250,000 new coronavirus cases.
Researchers find Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which disregarded public health guidance & White House task force rules, led to estimated 266,796 cases across US—19% of all US cases in a month, @washingtonpost rpts: https://t.co/YcmAAU1zXj— Mark Albert (@malbertnews) September 10, 2020
While there is evidence that the Sturgis rally led to a major spike in coronavirus cases, it was not the only factor involved in South Dakota's new COVID-19 rise. Dr. Sadiya Khan, an epidemiologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, spoke with NBC News recently, and explained what else likely led to the new rise in cases. "Two things clearly appear to be driving it," Khan said. "The motorcycle rally in Sturgis, as well as students returning to college and universities. The timeline seems to support that."