Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic has devolved into another Washington, D.C., political football. But leaders in South Dakota and Sweden have independently demonstrated that excessive citizen lockdowns may not have been necessary.
While other EU countries closed their once open borders, canceled school, and shuttered businesses, Sweden took a broader policy approach concerning scientific data. Rather than inflict poverty-driven deaths, Swedish health officials concluded that COVID-19 was a fast-spreading contagion, not unlike influenza and others.
Policymakers took the controversial approach of creating defenses around elderly residents and at-risk citizens while not requiring Shelter in Place orders. The strategy was to achieve “herd immunity” quickly instead of merely tamping down the curve. Sweden’s chief epidemiologist believed herd immunity levels of 60 percent could be reached in only a matter of weeks.
“In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases), and we’re already seeing the effect of herd immunity, and in a few weeks, we’ll see even more of the effects of that. And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable,” Dr. Anders Tegnell of Sweden’s Public Health Agency reportedly said.
Upwards of 20 percent of Stockholm has already built up antibodies to fend off the virus. Sweden had more than 15,000 confirmed cases and approximately 2,000 deaths, primarily older adults. Although its total numbers were higher than neighboring countries, the per capita rates are about the same with no lockdowns. Schools and businesses remain open, and residents have largely practiced social distancing and other health protocols.
In the U.S., South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was one of the few leaders not to issue lockdown orders. She took considerable heat from fake news media outlets such as CNN that erroneously called a pork processing plant outbreak a “hot spot.” Biased reports failed to indicate that the state’s largest facility of its kind was deemed an essential national business. The company produces 4-5 percent of the country’s pork and was mandated to remain open regardless.
Although the single facility incident skewed South Dakota’s overall data, the Republican governor points out that social distancing and other self-imposed CDC guidelines helped dramatically reduce the state’s infection curve.
“I think we’ve got maybe 60 people in the hospital right now. We have 2,500 beds set aside for COVID-19 patients, but we only have 63 in,” Gov. Noem reportedly said. “We already have cut our peak projections by 75 percent just putting in place the recommendations I asked people to do, staying at home, and they’ve practiced social distancing. They’ve washed their hands, and they stayed home if they weren’t feeling well and called their doctors. Just by doing that, we’ve cut the hospitalization rates by 75 percent.”
Gov. Noem also bucked the fake news narrative that anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine is dangerous and untested by mandating use in South Dakota under certain circumstances. The FDA-approved prescription drug was created to combat malaria but went largely underused as that epidemic subsided naturally.
Although no treatment existed as the coronavirus spread, a French study reported success using hydroxychloroquine. Democrats and left-leaning media outlets have falsely vilified the drug, making saving lives a partisan issue. Despite having a left-wing media bullseye on her back, Gov. Noem has shown determined leadership to deliver an unprecedented, statewide clinical trial.
“What’s happening here in South Dakota is really unprecedented. There has never been anything like this that has happened before. There is the state government partnering with all of our major health systems to run a statewide, state-backed-and-funded clinical trial,” the GOP governor reportedly said.
“So, I think this is kind of what South Dakota does best — we’re much better on offense than we are just sitting back and playing defense, and this is one way where I said let’s not just sit back and access the drug and let people use it that are in ICUs and in healthcare systems that need it to save their lives.”