Governor Noem announces committee to study reopening of South Dakota’s economy


April 21, 2020

Dear Tourism Friends,

Like us, many of you have been asking the question of WHEN the time will be right to open our tourism businesses, attractions, and lodging establishments. This question looms even larger as we approach May 1, a time when some of our tourism businesses target their operations for opening. Like you, we eagerly anticipate getting our industry open, our economy rolling again, and our lives back to normal as we welcome our visitors from across the country and the globe.

However, we have to be smart, strategic, and methodical about how we do that. We also need guidance on next steps.

With South Dakota’s coronavirus peak infection rate still slated to hit mid-June, tourism businesses are wondering what that means for them and when and how they should be opening for visitors. As we know, the state isn’t in a lockdown situation. Individual municipalities are instructing businesses on their modes of operation, but there are questions about timing and what makes the most sense for our state, its citizens, and our visitors. As we ponder that question, we need to remember that the health and safety of our industry partners, citizens, and visitors must ALWAYS come first. That needs to be at the forefront of the decision-making process.

Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Noem provided initial guidance for our state (and the tourism industry) when she announced that she had appointed a committee to assist the state in reviewing President Trump’s plan for reopening America and creating “a South Dakota-specific plan to reopen the state economy.” You can read more about Governor Noem’s action here. As Governor Noem shared during her press conference, “South Dakota’s plan to reopen its economy will be created from a medical viewpoint, based on testing and contact tracing.”

The committee’s work will be especially important to the tourism industry as their decisions must guide the actions and decisions of our state and industry as to when the time will be right to open.

The committee is comprised of medical professionals including:

  • South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon
  • Avera Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dave Erickson
  • Avera Group Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Post
  • Monument Health CEO Paulette Davidson
  • Monument Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brad Archer
  • Sanford Health President Paul Hanson
  • Sanford Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allison Suttle

As the committee begins to meet and formulate a plan for our state’s reopening, it’s good for all of us to be reminded that South Dakota is still operating under Governor Noem’s Executive Order 2020-15, which declares that a state of emergency continues to exist in all counties in South Dakota through May 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Order 2020-12 also continues to be in effect and directs that every South Dakotan shall:

  1. Review and practice the recommended CDC hygiene practices designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  2. Implement social distancing measures.
  3. Suspend or modify business practices as recommended by CDC guidance that involve 10 or more people to be in an enclosed space where physical separation of at least six feet is not possible.
  4. Implement the recommended CDC hygiene practices and other business strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease (staggering shifts, flexible schedules, employee screenings, etc.).

We will stay on top of and share with you all of the latest news as it relates to the coronavirus. We will also closely follow the work of the governor’s committee and share any new updates as they become available. Based on this committee’s decisions, our goal is to give you clear direction on how and when we should be opening for visitors. Please let us know if you have any questions.

As we relayed to you yesterday in an industry email, we will record another webinar on April 30 that addresses the latest consumer sentiment research on travel, marketing updates, and several other topics. If you have any specific items you would like us to address in the webinar, please send your questions to Kirk Hulstein at [email protected]. We look forward to sharing that presentation with you later next week.

We hope that each of you, your teams, and your loved ones are well. We can’t wait to actually see you when the time is right. Until then, stay safe.

All our very best,
Jim and Team

Jim Hagen
Secretary of Tourism



Department of Tourism COVID-19 Resource Page
State of South Dakota COVID-19 website