The North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill on Monday that would make future mask mandates illegal.
The Grand Forks Herald reported that the bill passed 50-44. It next heads to the state Senate.
The bill comes three months after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) imposed a statewide mask mandate, though the governor himself had previously expressed skepticism over such a move.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R), called mask mandates “diabolical silliness,” characterizing them as a conspiracy run by “unelected, wealthy bureaucrats who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies,” the Herald reported.
The number of COVID-19 cases declined after Burgum's mask mandate. The Herald also notes that health experts have attributed the drop to a combination of factors, including restrictions on businesses and increased social distancing.
According to the newspaper, several GOP supporters of the state bill said they believe that mask wearing does nothing to slow the spread of COVID-19. Multiple health experts, including the nation's top infectious diseases expert, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs Fauci: 'Worst time' for a government shutdown is in middle of pandemic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE, have stated that mask wearing is essential to overcoming the coronavirus pandemic.
The newspaper noted that masks are required in both chambers of the state legislature. However, the rule is not strictly enforced with House Speaker Kim Koppelman noting that the rule may be reexamined in the coming weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a study that found wearing a cloth mask over a medical mask can significantly decrease the spread of COVID-19.
According to data from the CDC, North Dakota has confirmed more than 94,000 coronavirus cases and 1,438 deaths since the pandemic began nearly one year ago.