For the past few months, South Dakotans have done a good job of distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Compared to other states, we have a very low number of cases and some of our counties have no cases at all. More and more businesses are opening their doors, and in most cases they are following safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Folks are ready to get back to work. Maintaining health and safety guidelines will allow more people to return to work faster, which will help get our economy back on track.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our economy was soaring. Jobs were being created, unemployment was at record lows and wages were rising. When businesses were forced to shut down because of the virus, our economy took a downturn. We believe that as soon as we can begin to fully reopen, our economy will come back stronger than ever. Even a top economic advisor to President Obama, Jason Furman, agrees. He recently said that he expects we’ll see the best economic data in the history of our country in the coming months. Larry Kudlow, the head of the White House National Economic Council, agreed with Furman and said that the third quarter of the fiscal year may be the single best GDP quarter since regular data. He also predicts that we’ll be seeing 4 percent growth into 2021. These optimistic predictions are due in part to the many pro-growth economic policies that we passed with President Trump’s support over the past few years. The measures we’ve already taken have paved the way for our economy to rebound quickly and strongly, even after facing significant declines. The deregulatory actions we’ve taken will allow businesses and states to get up and running at their full capacity as quickly as possible, since there is less bureaucratic red tape for them to cut through. This is great news for all Americans.
In order to fully reopen our country and get back to normal, we need to make sure people remain healthy and safe. This includes additional testing for the coronavirus, antibody testing so we know who has already had it, and continued development of a vaccine and therapeutic treatments to minimize the symptoms of the virus. I’m on President Trump’s task force to come up with innovative ideas for how to best reopen the country, and dur-ing a recent conference call, we discussed the administration’s new strategy for testing more people. They have pledged to purchase 100 million testing swabs by the end of this year, and will distribute them to states so that each state can be in charge of testing its own residents. A state-based approach, rather than a one-size-fits-all federal approach, is a much better, more targeted way to make sure tests go to individuals and communities that really need them.
It is important to keep in mind that, not only is testing important in real time, but also to test whether individuals have recovered from COVID-19. Antibody tests can not only confirm suspected cases after the fact, they can also reveal who was infected and didn’t know it. Some estimates show that up to a quarter of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection may unwittingly spread the virus because they have mild or no symptoms. The best evidence we have right now says that individuals can’t be infected again once they’ve had COVID-19. Antibody testing is a winning strategy to being able to open up our economy again.
Meanwhile, scientists continue working on vaccines and new therapeutic treatments to combat the coronavirus. A clinical trial of a vaccine developed by U.S.-based Moderna is showing promising signs of being effective against the virus. AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom is also making strides toward a vaccine. A number of different therapeutic treatments are being studied as well that can help mitigate symptoms of the virus. SAb Biotherapeutics, based in Sioux Falls, is developing a treatment that produces antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus. The federal government has called for the approval process of vaccines to be fast-tracked, so that as soon as one shows signs of working, it can be distributed quickly across the country.
Our economy took a hit because of the coronavirus, but it will come back stronger than ever as we continue to reopen. South Dakotans want to go back to work, kids want to go back to school and all of us want to be able to live our lives freely without fear of a virus. I’ll continue working to make sure we can get back to normal as quickly and safely as possible.