Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said she tested negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday after interacting with Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top Trump campaign aide who tested positive on Friday, and speaking before President Donald Trump at Mount Rushmore last week.
“I’ve always taken #COVID19 very seriously, but South Dakota trusted our citizens to exercise their personal responsibility to keep themselves and their loved-ones safe,” Noem tweeted, adding that she had also tested negative on Friday before meeting with Trump.
In an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, Noem was asked about flying back to Washington, DC, with Trump on Air Force One after coming into contact with Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. and a top campaign fundraiser.
“We need to remember that Kimberly was asymptomatic and the science of the virus tells us that it’s very, very difficult to spread the virus when you’re asymptomatic,” Noem responded.
“I was tested again today, which came back negative again,” she added. “So I appreciated the opportunity to spend time talking about the issues that were important to South Dakota in my time with (Interior Department) Secretary Bernhardt and with the President, and look forward to bringing more solutions to my state.”
Transmission via people with no symptoms, or during the few days before symptoms are apparent, is a primary driver of Covid-19 spread, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Guilfoyle tested positive in South Dakota before she was set to attend the President’s event at Mount Rushmore, a spokesman for the Trump Victory Finance Committee said Friday. The spokesman added that Trump Jr. had so far tested negative. A person familiar with the matter said Guilfoyle had not had any recent contact with the President.
Guilfoyle and Trump Jr. had been in the upper Plains region hosting high-dollar fundraisers for several days, people familiar with the matter said. Guilfoyle has “been with a lot of the campaign donors” in recent days, one source familiar with the matter said.
Noem, who worked with the President and the Department of Interior to make the Mount Rushmore event happen, told Fox News last week that social distancing would not be enforced at the “large event,” saying that “we told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one.”
When asked on Tuesday about the risk of potentially making too light of the situation and ignoring precautions, Noem said she rejected the notion “because I’ve never made light of the virus, I’ve taken it very seriously.”
“What I also believe is that we need to make sure that we’re making good decisions, taking personal responsibility,” she said, adding that “it’s incredibly important that we do what we can to mitigate the spread of this virus, but we also know that we can’t stop it.”
Noem faced increased scrutiny in the spring over her refusal to issue a stay-at-home order when a coronavirus outbreak at a major pork processing plant in her state raised new concerns about the nation’s food supply.
South Dakota is one of 14 states where the rates of new infections are generally holding steady this week, according to Johns Hopkins University data, while at least 32 states are reporting higher rates of new cases this week compared with last week.