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As Coronavirus Surges, The South Dakota Department of Health Releases Previously Hidden Hospital Bed Data in Response To RuralOrganizing.org Public Records Request

Columbus, OH—Over the past few months, as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has downplayed the threat of coronavirus to the residents of the state, the Department of Health has refused to share critical data, including available hospital beds.

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org, repeatedly sought that information through public records requests but was stonewalled for over three months. He reached out to Keloland-TV in Sioux Falls, which brought results. 

The lack of information about the situation in South Dakota is especially ominous given the state’s surging number of cases. This week, according to the New York Times, South Dakota has the second highest cases per 100,000 and three of the top hot spots in the country are in the state.

Health care and the impact of coronavirus are critically important issues for rural populations. Three polls conducted by Rural.Organizing.org this year, in  MarchMay, and  July, found health care ranked as the top issue even as voters expressed frustration with Trump’s handling of the pandemic. 

The following is a statement from Matthew Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org:

“Rural populations are facing an onslaught of coronavirus cases even as Governors like Kristi Noem downplay the crisis. She and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds seem more interested in campaigning for Donald Trump, whose failed response to the pandemic is the reason we’re in this crisis. Today, Noem is holding events in New Hampshire for Trump.

Rural voters are deeply concerned about the lack of health care options, closing rural hospitals and spiking covid-19 cases. But, their leaders are not only minimizing the crisis, they’ve been blocking access to vital information. I’m just relieved that RuralOrganizing.Org could get some results. And, I know front line health care workers understand the crisis the state is experiencing so we thank them for their heroic efforts.”

The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

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