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North Dakota bans mandatory face coverings

The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill into law that will eliminate rules mandating face masks, which one representative, Jeff Hoverson, has described as “diabolical silliness.”

The state’s lower chamber voted 50-44 Monday to prohibit state and local governments, schools and businesses from ordering mask mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Grand Forks Herald reported. This was not along partisan lines: the House is currently divided between 80 Republicans and 14 Democrats.

The bill will proceed to the Senate. “The mask is a part of a larger apparatus of a movement of unelected, wealthy bureaucrats, who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies,” Hoverson said. A Republican, Hoverson claims that he has received a lot of e-mails, most of which are in support of his bill and against mask mandates. "They do not want North Dakota to get sucked into what is becoming obvious," he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Dockter (also a Republican) has argued that a ban on masks would take away control from local governments. "If people wanted to decide to have a mask mandate, they should have that choice," Dockter said. "They should also have the choice not to mandate. I think as lawmakers, if we're going to pass a bill that just says 'Absolutely no mandates, no matter what, under no circumstances,' those are the same people that talk about local control."

This comes in the aftermath of a statewide mask mandate made by incumbent North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum back in November.

“Since the beginning, we’ve taken a data-driven approach to our pandemic response, focusing on saving lives and livelihoods,” Burgum said at the time. “Right now, the data demands a higher level of mitigation efforts to reverse these dangerous trends, to slow the spread of this virus, and to avoid the need for economic shutdowns.”

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