The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban the implementation of President Joe Biden’s proposed national mask mandate. The bill would “prohibit state and local officials, schools and businesses from mandating face masks.”
The anti-mask mandate bill passed on Monday by a narrow margin of 50-44, and is slated to head to the state Senate, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
Three months ago, Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum imposed a state-wide mask mandate, which expired in January. Several cities across the state, including Bismarck, Fargo, and Grand Forks had already required the use of masks in public spaces.
The sponsor of the anti-mask mandate bill, Republican state Rep. Jeff Hoverson, argued that North Dakota should be as free as its southern neighbor, South Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reported that both state’s coronavirus numbers have steadily decreased, despite North Dakota’s imposition of a mask mandate. In contrast, South Dakota under Gov. Kristi Noem never imposed a mask mandate and allowed residents to make their own decisions.
Hoverson described the mask mandates as “diabolical silliness,” and described them as a part of a larger conspiracy by “unelected, wealthy bureaucrats who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies.”
Supporters of the bill claim that masking does not prevent the spread of COVID-19, with many pointing out the ineffectiveness of cloth masks and paper masks as ineffectual forms of security theater. As many experts have pointed out, masks require an N-95 rating to be truly effective against the spread of infectious diseases, which many people are not wearing despite “masking up.”
Republican state Rep. Jason Dockter also spoke out against Burgum’s legislation, arguing that states should allow counties, schools, employers, and cities to have “local control” over the decision.
Experts argue that while COVID-19 cases dropped after the North Dakota governor issued a mask mandate, it was likely due to many other factors, including social distancing efforts and restrictions on the operation of businesses, more so than the mask requirement, the Herald reports.
The North Dakota bill comes following the release of new CDC guidelines pushing the importance of mask-wearing, including an advisory to wear two masks. According to the CDC, the organization ran experiments in order to examine the 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.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. official on COVID, has been criticized for saying that wearing masks will be required indefinitely.