Lawmakers in the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill Monday to prohibit state and local officials as well as schools and businesses from “mandating face masks.”
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R), described masks mandates — embraced at every level of government — as “diabolical silliness.”
Hoverson’s legislation passed the House by a very narrow vote of 50-44. It will now go to the state Senate, according to a report this week from Grand Forks Herald.
In mid-January, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) allowed his state’s mask mandate, implemented last November, to expire.
The intention behind the bill is to ensure North Dakotans have the same level of freedom as South Dakotans. In the latter state, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has refused to impose a mask mandate, instead urging citizens to practice personal responsibility and make their own decisions over face coverings.
“I choose to rely on science and data and facts,” Noem said. “Masks can work in certain situations if you’re wearing the right kind and you’re doing it appropriately. But I’m not going to mandate it. It’s not an argument over whether masks work or they don’t work; I’ve never argued that. What I argue is the mandate. I think the mandate is inappropriate for government to come in and mandate that somebody wear a mask, and I think it’s inappropriate for us to shame people who choose not to wear a mask. That’s not what America is about and that’s not what South Dakota is about.”
She told reporters she will continue leaving the matter up to personal responsibility.
Mask proponents have argued COVID-19 cases dropped in North Dakota after the state began enforcing a mask mandate last fall. However, medical experts said it’s more likely a whole host of factors — such as increased social distancing efforts and business restrictions — have led to the decline in infections, the Herald reported.
The move to ban mask mandates in North Dakota comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a guidance encouraging Americans to wear two masks.
And Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Americans will need to wear masks well into 2022. He also declared Monday vaccinations against COVID-19 will do nothing to change society.
“There are things, even if you’re vaccinate, that you’re not going to be able to do in society: for example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate,” he said. “That’s because of the safety of society.”
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