Kristi Noem Vows Vaccine Mandate War Against Joe Biden As South Dakota COVID Cases Soar

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has vowed to fight any legislation that mandates vaccinations for U.S. citizens, as COVID cases soar in the state amid the highly contagious Delta variant.

On Monday evening, Noem tweeted that she would take "every action available" to stop vaccine mandates shortly after President Joe Biden urged businesses to require their employees to get vaccinated.

Biden made the plea following the announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the Pfizer COVID shot had been given a full approval from the agency.

The Pfizer vaccine is the first COVID shot in the U.S. to be granted full approval, as other vaccines have only been given emergency authorization by the FDA for use in the country but are expected to be formally approved by the end of the year.

Following the announcement of the approval, Biden spoke to the press, saying: "If you're a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that requiring."

He added: "Do what I did last month — require your employees to get vaccinations or face strict requirements," in reference to his decision in July to require all federal employees be vaccinated or agree to a regular testing program.

Responding to Biden's plea on Monday evening, Noem, a Republican, tweeted: "If @joebiden illegally mandates vaccines, I will take every action available under the law to protect South Dakotans from the federal government."

Several large companies across the U.S. have since announced that they will be requiring their employees to get vaccines, including CVS and United Airlines, while the New York City School System has done the same.

Although Noem encouraged South Dakota residents to get vaccinated when the vaccines first became available in 2020, she has preferred to take a hands-off approach to the pandemic and has held out against mandating mask wearing in the state.

She has argued that governors who issued mandates aimed at curbing infections were overstepping the bounds of their office, saying in July that "any other governor that took a stronger mitigation measure, they broke their oath to the Constitution. Every governor that closed a business could be sued for the taking of that business."

Noem's stand on Monday against vaccine mandates came as the state reported the largest COVID increase in the country, seeing a 312 percent rise in cases over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times COVID tracker.

That figure is nearly double the rate of the second most infectious state, West Virginia, with South Dakota averaging 221 new cases a day and 118 hospitalizations amid the spread of the Delta variant.

The variant, first identified in India, has been surging in the U.S. over the last month and is now responsible for the vast majority of new COVID cases in the country, with booster vaccines expected to be recommended for U.S. citizens in response.

Just over 200 million people in the U.S. have had one or more doses of a COVID vaccine, equating to 60 percent of the population, which is more than South Dakota's figures of at least 56 percent partially vaccinated.

South Dakota has also seen around 49 percent of its population fully vaccinated, which is less than the 51 percent reported across the U.S.

Despite soaring cases and a low level of vaccine uptake, Noem believes her messaging around vaccination has been sufficient, telling The Associated Press that any more announcements could read "a saturation level where people start to tune you out."

Newsweek has contacted Noem's office and the White House for comment.

Noem and Biden
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (left) speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC held at the Hilton Anatole on July 11, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. President Joe Biden (right) speaks during an event to honor the 2020 WNBA champions Seattle Storm in the East Room of the White House on August 23, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Brandon Bell and Drew Angerer/Getty Images