ST. PAUL -- As the state of South Dakota leads the nation in new per-capita coronavirus diagnoses, Gov. Kristi Noem is heading east to Minnesota to campaign for political ally President Donald Trump in a bus tour across the state.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan tweeted on Friday, Oct. 9, that the Trump campaign would be resuming its Women for Trump bus tour through the state on Sunday and Monday, with appearances by "America's favorite" Noem and others. The tour is set to include stops in Duluth, Virginia, Brainerd, Moorhead, Fergus Falls and Marshall, per Carnahan. Noem also will be headlining a Farmers for Trump event with Minnesota U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber on Saturday, according to Republican National Committee spokesperson Preya Samsundar.
The bus tour and campaign events come after several high-profile Minnesota Republicans have been forced to quarantine and postpone campaign appearances after coming into contact with Trump last week, one day before he tested positive for coronavirus. Trump has been keen on the idea of flipping Minnesota red for the first time in decades, pouring in millions of campaign and advertising dollars. Last week, he made his seventh campaign stop in the state to hold a private fundraiser in Shorewood and a rally attended by thousands in Duluth.
Noem attended the Shorewood fundraiser, her spokesperson Ian Fury confirmed to Forum News Service last week. He also confirmed that she would be participating in the coming days' campaign stops in Minnesota, but diverted to the Trump campaign for specifics on her involvement. He did not answer a question on what COVID-19 precautions the governor would take while in Minnesota.
Democrats have cried foul over Republicans' continuing of crowded in-person campaign events during the pandemic, where little social distancing and masking has been seen. Pressed on the issue in September, Carnahan said the Minnesota GOP encourages attendees to wear masks and social distance "but we’re not law enforcement." For upcoming events, Samsundar said attendees would be encouraged to follow local and state guidelines. Face masks are currently required while in indoor, public spaces in Minnesota.
As Noem prepares to head east to campaign, her state is seeing the second-highest per-capita rate of coronavirus diagnoses in the country, according to the New York Times. On Thursday, the state saw its all-time single-day high of coronavirus-related deaths: 14 in one day.
Noem has garnered national attention in recent months for her hands-off approach during the pandemic. While some states like Minnesota instituted temporary shelter-in-place orders and mask mandates in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus, Noem has refrained, saying she trusts South Dakotans to do the right thing for themselves, sans government mandate.
Overall, per the South Dakota Department of Health, nearly 27,000 South Dakotans have tested positive for the virus since March., and 277 have died. Over 109,000 Minnesotans have tested positive to date, per the Minnesota Department of Health, and 2,121 have died. South Dakota's population is less than 885,000, compared to 5.6 million in Minnesota, according to the U.S. Census.