PIERRE, S.D. — In a national television appearance Sunday, Nov. 8, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended the state's record on COVID-19, despite hospitalizations and deaths continuing to climb.
Speaking with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," Noem responded to comments made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., attributing the state's case increases to regionality and more testing.
Noem's comments came after Stephanopoulos asked Cuomo what his message would be to Republicans who have not acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden.
"It is a regional increase that we're seeing. We are testing more," Noem said, before saying that New York still has the nation's second-worst death rate on a per capita basis. New York has 173 deaths per 100,000 residents, while South Dakota has 54 deaths per 100,000 residents.
"I appreciated that President (Donald) Trump gave us the flexibility to do the right thing in our state and will continue to do that," she said. "He let me do my job."
Cuomo said Republican governors "cowered" to Trump's philosophy to deny coronavirus.
"Don't take tests because if you take tests, then you'll find cases. The scientists couldn't speak up; his own health officials were muzzled, I think — I think that day is over," Cuomo said. "And I think you'll see this COVID rebound putting forth a stark reality to governors all across the nation because it's going to be the states that denied COVID that are now going to be paying the highest price."
Stephanopoulos and Noem also discussed Noem's claims that the presidential election was "rigged," and whether she had any evidence of widespread fraud. Noem responded by saying that there have been signed affidavits saying they saw illegal activities, alleging that computer glitches in Michigan changed Republican votes to Democrat and dead people voting in Pennsylvania.
"I don't know if it will change the outcome of the election," Noem said. "But why is everybody so scared just to have a fair election and find out?"
Noem made the comparison to the 2000 election involving Al Gore, and Stephanopoulos said that the multiple states Trump is behind in are "not within the margin that elections are usually turned around on."
"All I'm asking for, George, is that we don't break this country," Noem said. "When you break the process on which we elect our leaders, you will break America forever."
Stephanopoulos ended the interview by reiterating that Noem had not provided any evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Updated coronavirus data
According to the state's data updated Sunday, South Dakota now has 546 individuals currently in the state's hospitals fighting coronavirus, a record total for the pandemic, and a 29.6% increase in current hospitalizations compared to a week ago. Ninety-six individuals are in intensive care unit beds, while 69 South Dakotans are using ventilation, according to South Dakota Department of Health data.
The hospitalizations continue to increase much like the state's death toll related to COVID-19. An additional 13 deaths were reported, bringing the state's total to 536, with 111 of those reported during the month of November. The state's death toll has doubled in the last 32 days.
Overall, South Dakota added 1,428 cases, marking the 10th time in the last 12 days South Dakota has reported at least 1,000 new cases. The state's overall case count is at 55,404 positive tests, with 15,750 active cases and 39,118 individuals reported recovered from the virus.
With Sunday's data, the state's cumulative positivity rate for COVID-19 since March is 20%. Sunday's daily data reported a test positivity rate of 60.7%, with 1,428 positive tests out of 2,352 tests conducted.