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ND governor implores citizens to skip 'ideological and political' argument over face masks in emotional speech

Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he hopes his state skips the “ideological and political” argument about the use of face masks during an emotional speech Friday as the pandemic continues to severely impact parts of the United States. 

“I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through where they’re trading a divide — either it’s ideological or political or something — around masks versus no mask,” said Burgum. “I would say this is a senseless dividing line, and I would ask people to try to dial up your empathy and your understanding.” 

Burgum, a staunch supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE, appears to be referring to partisan disagreements and demonstrations that have erupted across the U.S. over social distancing measures, stay-at-home orders and the use of face coverings. 

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Most recently, a video of a verbal confrontation between a Costco cashier and a customer went viral after the customer refused to wear a mask at the cash register. 

Trump himself has not worn a face mask when on camera in public appearances outside the White House. The president was seen not wearing a mask at a Ford plant in Michigan on Friday, despite company policy and state law. However, a photograph from the same visit later surfaced of Trump wearing a mask while talking to a Ford Motor executive.  

Critics of the president said the decision not to wear proper protective equipment delivers the wrong message to the public. 

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Burgum said face masks should not be used as a political statement and compared them to helmets on athletes.

“If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” Burgum said as he appeared choked up.

“They might be doing it because they have a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults who currently have [COVID-19] and are fighting,” he added.

Federal public health officials recommend leaving home only for essential activities and wearing a protective face covering while doing so.

Early studies in New York have found that health care workers have a lower rate of infection than the general public, which could underscore the value personal protective equipment has in curtailing the virus.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, as of Saturday 2,365 people in the state have tested positive for the virus and 52 have died.