State Rep. Aaron Aylward has proposed legislation that would nullify the president's orders on pandemic-related matters, among other things.
South Dakota state Rep. Aaron Aylward, a Republican, confirmed on Monday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, days after he introduced a bill that aims to nullify President Joe Biden's orders on COVID-19 safety measures, among other things.
"I decided to go in after not feeling well Saturday night/Sunday morning. I plan on going back (to session) next Tuesday," he told local affiliate KELOLAND News in an email.
He is the first state lawmaker to contract the disease this legislative cycle; several others contracted it last year.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch told local reporters this week that any lawmaker who tests positive for coronavirus will be allowed to participate in legislative business remotely.
Aylward's positive virus test came after he proposed HB 1194 on Feb. 1, which would allow South Dakota Attorney General Jason Favnsborg to declare the president's executive orders "unconstitutional" and exempt the state from them. The bill lists a number of orders that fall under the legislation — and first on the list are actions relating to the "pandemic or other public health emergency."
Biden has thus far signed executive orders requiring face masks on federal property, ensuring states are empowered to utilize National Guard troops to assist with response efforts, issuing guidance on workplace safety amid the pandemic, and "guaranteeing unemployment insurance for workers who refuse work due to Covid-19" according to NBC News, among other things.
When asked about Biden potentially issuing a national mask mandate in the future, the South Dakota lawmaker told KELOLAND News that he opposed such an idea because it "pertains to our rights that are protected under the U.S. Constitution."
"If the President ordered a nationwide mask mandate, it would go against the power laid out in Article II, and it would also go against the protection of the rights that may lie underneath the 9th and 10th Amendments," Aylward said.
He added, "If this were to pass, it would give South Dakota much of its power back."
The outlet noted Monday that Aylward himself had not been wearing masks while inside the capitol building prior to his diagnosis, as the state encourages but does not require lawmakers to use them.
Aylward's positive virus test comes as South Dakota suffers a grim number of coronavirus cases and deaths, and Gov. Kristi Noem faces harsh criticism for her refusal to implement statewide lockdown or safety mandates to curb the spread of COVID-19.
On Feb. 3, the Washington Post's Philip Bump noted that the state had rounded out 2020 "with the second-highest number of population-adjusted coronavirus infections in the country."
"One out of every 9 residents had contracted the virus, and 1 out of every 600 had died of it," the outlet wrote.
Last summer, Noem had ignored expert advice and allowed a major motorcycle rally to take place, in spite of public health risks. That rally was later dubbed a "superspreading event" that likely resulted in $12 billion in public health costs, with hundreds of cases and at least one related death.
And as of February, things had become even worse, with public data showing that 1 out of every 8 South Dakota residents had contracted COVID-19 and 1 out of every 500 residents had died from the virus, the Post noted.
According to a Post tracker of COVID deaths per 100,000 residents, South Dakota ranks as the fifth-worst affected state, with 207 deaths reported. The Post called it "striking" that the relatively rural state's death and illness rates measured just under more densely populated states New Jersey (245 deaths), New York (224), Massachusetts (216), and Rhode Island (209).
Despite the alarming numbers, Noem has since defended her response to the pandemic, saying on Feb. 2 that the state had "got[ten] through it better than virtually every other state."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.