PIERRE, S.D. – In South Dakota, we know our people. We know they desire flexibility, affordable care, and freedom to make their own choices regarding practitioners, insurance, facilities, and treatment options. I believe that the government’s role in healthcare is to empower, support, and partner – not mandate, control, and lock down.
Under the leadership of Governor Kristi Noem, South Dakota’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic looked different than other states. Instead of controlling, mandating, and locking down South Dakota, the State of South Dakota and the Department of Health took a different approach: freedom.
Businesses of all kinds in South Dakota are thriving today compared to others forced to shut down in other states. Because people were allowed and encouraged to keep their businesses open, they innovated to create a safer customer experience when the spread of COVID-19 was high.
Instead of mandating stay-at-home orders, South Dakota leaders and healthcare professionals took the time to understand the facts of the situation and educated our communities and patients so that they could make informed healthcare decisions for themselves.
As South Dakota government leaders remained steadfast in allowing residents to make their own healthcare decisions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we now see that COVID-19 vaccine mandates across the nation had similar outcomes to the approach that South Dakota took: empower and educate, not mandate.
At the Cato Health Institute panel discussion held mid-February, Governor Noem emphasized, “People have to know that there is a state like South Dakota – where it was different. People have to hear the story that there is a place that did it differently, and we are thriving because of it.”
People were shocked to visit South Dakota and feel a sense of normal again during the COVID-19 pandemic. People moved their families to make freedom-focused healthcare decisions for themselves and not be forced to stay home when they felt comfortable going out, wanted to continue to work, or even just wanted their kids in school. Children and youth in South Dakota were back in school in the fall of 2020 and are now experiencing strong educational outcomes because they could be in their classrooms throughout the pandemic.
Is there such a thing as healthcare freedom? Yes. It takes hard work, common sense, data, and facts – and a government that doesn’t control medical decisions and leads by empowerment, not demands.
South Dakota is at the forefront of supporting proactive quality of care for our people. Our state has unique health challenges, which vary from our rural communities to our two largest urban cities. We will tackle these challenges by focusing on an innovative, forward-looking approach to public health rather than simply reacting to difficulties. And through every challenge, we will continue to respect the freedom of South Dakotans.
About Melissa Magstadt, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health: Melissa has been involved in South Dakota healthcare for over 30 years. She is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and co-owner of Quick Care SD. She served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 2011 to 2014 and was a member of the House Committee on Health and Human Services. Her education includes a Master’s in Science from South Dakota State University with a focus as a family nurse practitioner. She also has a Master’s in Business Administration from Mount Marty University.
She graduated from the Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute at the University of Nebraska. She is currently a fellow at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrated Medicine and will complete her work this summer. Magstadt is a born and raised South Dakotan residing in the northeast part of the state. She is married with three grown daughters and two granddaughters.