The governor of North Dakota seemed on the verge of tears Friday, as he urged residents to be “empathetic” towards those who decide to wear face masks, noting that some people are far greater risk from COVID-19.
Speaking at a press conference in the state’s capital, Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, choked up as he asked residents to “dial up your empathy and your understanding” when they see someone wearing a face mask.
“If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” said Burgum. “They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life, who currently have COVID, and they’re fighting.”
The red state governor apparently addressed the growing political divide between wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In the United States, ideology seems to have been correlated with the decision to wear a mask. Polling has shown that Democrats are more likely to report wearing masks than Republicans, although Republicans are more likely to wear masks in states with Democratic governors. People who have known someone who has contracted the virus and people of color are also more likely to wear masks. Local government ordering people to wear masks when in public has been met with threats of violence and multiple videos have surfaced of crowds ridiculing people for choosing to wear face coverings.
Burgum asked North Dakotans to avoid “mask shaming,” and that if they see people wearing masks in a restaurant, they should “welcome them and support them.”
“You should look at them and say, ‘that person’s wearing a mask because for them, there’s additional risk in their life,’” said Burgum.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people wear cloth facial coverings in public and maintain six feet of distance from other people in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.