By Zachary Stieber
South Dakota’s governor on Wednesday announced she took executive action to ban vaccine passports, or proof of an individual being vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, said the executive order she signed aligns with making sure South Dakotans are able to exercise their freedoms.
“Since the start of the COVID pandemic, we have provided the people of South Dakota with up-to-date science, facts, and data and then trusted them to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones. We’ve resisted government mandates, and our state is stronger for it,” she said in a statement.
“I encourage all South Dakotans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but we are not going to mandate any such activity. And 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.”
Vaccine passports are documentation, paper or digital, that enable people to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
Discussion is taking place on requiring such proof at various venues, which would be “discriminatory treatment” against people who haven’t gotten COVID-19 vaccines, Noem’s 3-page order states.
“Any rationale for imposing public health restrictions that limit freedoms should be tailored to mitigate a verifiable, scientific risk,” it said. “Implementing a vaccine passport program could lead to unjustified, non-science-based restrictions on travel, speech, association, and other civil rights.”
The order bars state agencies, departments, boards, commissions, and other entities or officials under the governor’s control from requiring a person to present a COVID-19 vaccine passport in order to enter a government building, receive a government benefit, or do business with the government.
The same set of entities are barred from requiring that private businesses mandate a passport.
In addition, local governments are advised not to require or order businesses to require proof of vaccination.
The order provides clear exemptions for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities.
South Dakota has vaccinated 53 percent of its population against the CCP virus, according to the latest figures shared by its Department of Health. About 4 out of 10 residents are fully vaccinated.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, all Republicans, recently issued similar passport bans.
However, some other states are exploring the possibility of requiring proof of vaccination.
Officials in Hawaii, for instance, said earlier this month that they are looking into requiring proof of vaccination for people traveling between islands in the state.
“I think that makes a lot of sense,” Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, said. “It would immediately empower probably about half of our travelers inside the islands to travel safely.”
Venues in New York state have also begun requiring proof of vaccination.
The White House has said that the federal government will not mandate vaccine passports. The World Health Organization also recently came out against the passports, at least for now, citing concerns that such requirements would disproportionately impact groups like pregnant women and the poor.