The North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would “prohibit state and local officials, schools and businesses from mandating face masks.”
The bill passed by a narrow margin in a 50—44 vote and will now go to the State Senate, according to reporting by the Grand Forks Herald.
Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum put a statewide face coving mandate in place three months ago, but it reportedly expired in January. Before the mask mandate was enforced across the state, other cities and counties — including Fargo, Grand Forks, and Bismarck — had already required masks in public.
The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Rep. Jeff Hoverson, said North Dakota should be free like South Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reported in January that both states’ coronavirus case numbers have dropped, while North Dakota imposed a mask mandate and its southern neighbor did not, rather providing information to citizens and allowing them to make the decision themselves. Experts warn against comparing the two states, however, because of their varying tactics.
Hoverson called mask mandates “diabolical silliness” and reportedly discussed government-issued mask mandates as part of a larger conspiracy led by “unelected, wealthy bureaucrats who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies.”
Other supporters of the bill claimed that wearing masks does not help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The only lawmaker to speak out against the piece of legislation was Republican state Rep. Jason Dockter, who said the state should allow counties, schools, employers, and cities “local control” over their decisions.
The Herald reports that while COVID-19 cases dropped after the governor issued the mask mandate, experts have noted that this was likely because of many factors, including greater social distancing efforts and restrictions on the operation of businesses.
The move from North Dakota comes as the CDC released new guidelines this month on the importance of mask-wearing, including double mask-wearing. A summary of the CDC report released early on Feb. 10, stated that the CDC did experiments in order to examine ways in which to improve “the fit of medical procedure masks: fitting a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask, and knotting the ear loops of a medical procedure mask and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face. Each modification substantially improved source control and reduced wearer exposure.”
The report found that wearing a mask that fits tightly can help limit the spread of the coronavirus, noting that options include wearing a mask fitter, a nylon covering placed over a mask, a cloth mask over a procedure mask, or a medical procedure mask with knotted ear loops and the sides tucked in.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been criticized for saying wearing masks might be a practice in the United States for a while.
The Daily Wire reports,
[Fauci] told CNN on Sunday that Americans may need to wear masks until next year and that he can’t predict when things in the U.S. will return to normal.
“You and the president have suggested that we’ll approach normality toward the end of the year. What does normal mean?” CNN’s Dana Bash asked. “Do you think Americans will still be wearing masks, for example, in 2022?”
“You know, I think it is possible that that’s the case,” Fauci said. “And again, it really depends on what you mean, by normality … because if normality means exactly the way things were before we had this happen to us, I mean, I can’t predict that.”
The Grand Forks newspaper also noted that both the House and Senate in North Dakota require that face shields or masks “be worn in areas of the Bismarck Capitol building under the branch’s control, though the rule is lightly enforced and oft ignored by lawmakers.” House Speaker Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo), reportedly reminded the lawmakers to wear masks on the chamber floor Monday, but also added that the rule might be reconsidered in the coming weeks.
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