PIERRE, S.D. — Following the lead of Republican governors in Florida and Texas, South Dakota's Gov. Kristi Noem has come out in opposition to so-called "vaccine passports," banning "government-instituted" embargoes on non-inoculated persons from doing government business.
While encouraging South Dakotans to seek vaccinations against the deadly COVID-19 virus, Noem issued an executive order on Wednesday, April 21, prohibiting vaccine passports that may be used to prevent access to government buildings or receive an executive branch agency benefit unless persons are vaccinated. The order also discourages "local government(s)" from imposing vaccine passports.
"[W]e are not going to restrict South Dakotans' exercise of their freedoms with un-American policies like vaccine passports," said Noem, in a statement.
But the governor's order does not state a private business can't require proof of a vaccine among customers. Moreover, the order explicitly states it does not limit the ability of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or long-term care centers to "require documentation of a resident's vaccination status."
Last month, New York launched the nation's first "vaccine passport" system in the country, with the so-called "Excelsior Pass," a digital record of a COVID-19 vaccination that will be accepted at a range of large events, from sporting arenas to entertainment venues.
Earlier in April, the White House announced it would not institute a vaccine passport as more and more Americans get vaccinated and the prospect of large-scale events across the country this summer becomes more viable.
South Dakota, to date, has been one of the top-10 leading states for vaccination rates, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A handful of Republican governors, including Florida's Ron DeSantis, have also issued executive orders describing passports as infringements upon constitutional liberties. DeSantis's order, thus far, has gone the furthest, threatening a penalty for private businesses — not just public entities — that require proof-of-vaccination to enter.
The U.S. does have a history of imposing requirements akin to vaccine passports. In 1885, for example, border officials required international travelers show they'd been vaccinated against smallpox before entering the country.