More than a thousand people are set to attend motor races in South Dakota this weekend with the state yet to issue a stay-at-home order for its residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Park Jefferson Speedway, which has a capacity of 4,000, says it has sold all 700 tickets it has allocated for a race on Saturday while the New Raceway Park had sold 310 of its 500 tickets for an event on Sunday. Both tracks are in Jefferson, and all attendees will be required to wear face coverings.
“We intend to go overboard on following CDC guidelines,” Park Jefferson Speedway owner Adam Adamson told the Argus Leader. “We’re just a small race track in rural South Dakota trying to give some entertainment and a little bit of a break from some of this madness that’s going on right now. We think we can do so in a safe environment.”
South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, has faced criticism for refusing to issue a stay at home order, although she has rolled out an executive order telling residents to practice social distancing.
Noem was asked about the racing events at a press conference on Tuesday and said she did not agree with the decision to stage them. Both meetings are perfectly legal while there is no stay-at-home order.
“I can encourage people not to go. I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to attend,” Noem said. “I still recommend that we follow the plans that I have laid out for South Dakota where we don’t gather in sizes of over 10 and that folks continue to social distance if they’re not feeling well to stay home and to wash their hands.”
There have been 1,755 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in South Dakota and eight deaths. It ranks 46th in population out of the US’s 50 states.
One user on Twitter said they intended to drive five-and-a-half hours from Iowa, which has had far more cases and deaths than South Dakota, to attend the event.
South Dakota’s economy relies on tourism and agriculture, which have both been hit hard by the pandemic. Noem, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, has said she does not want to sacrifice individual liberties by putting the state under lockdown.
“I took an oath when I was in Congress, obviously, to uphold the constitution of the United States,” she told Fox News. “I believe in our freedoms and liberties. What I’ve seen across the country is so many people give up their liberties for just a little bit of security, and they don’t have to do that.”