SIOUX FALLS (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has joined a handful of governors who have issued executive orders banning the development or use of COVID-19 vaccine passports in their states.
Vaccine passports are documents that could be used to verify coronavirus immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine.
South Dakota has resisted government mandates and the state “is stronger for it,” Noem said Wednesday in a statement. She encouraged all residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine but said the state will not require it.
“We are not going to restrict South Dakotans’ exercise of their freedoms with un-American policies like vaccine passports. In our state, ‘Under God, the people rule.’ And that is how we will operate for as long as I am governor,” Noem said.
She is asking the South Dakota Athletic Commission to immediately rescind its requirement that sports participants provide proof they are vaccinated for COVID-19.
In a letter to commission chairman Michael Kilmer, Noem wrote that requiring proof of a vaccination would eliminate South Dakotans’ ability to “make reasonable decisions on their own health while they participate in activities in our communities.”
The South Dakota Athletic Commission oversees mixed martial arts, boxing and kickboxing within the state.
“While I understand the commission’s intent to protect participants at events under its purview, the commission’s decision to pass this motion does not reflect South Dakota’s relationship to the public regarding COVID-19,” Noem wrote.
The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
South Dakota ranks 18th in the country for new COVID-19 cases per capita in the last two weeks and its death rate over the course of the pandemic is eighth highest, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
The governors of Florida, Texas, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah have issued executive orders against vaccine passport systems, citing government overreach into personal freedom and private health choices. New York was the first state to institute a passport system.
To read all of today's stories, Click here or call 642-2761 to subscribe to our e-edition or home delivery.