North Dakota Gov. Urges People to Focus on 'The Battle of The Virus,' Not 'Mask Shaming' One Another

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has urged people to focus on "the battle of the virus," rather than shaming those who wear masks.

In a news conference on Friday, Burgum bemoaned the "senseless dividing line" between those choosing to don masks or face coverings in public places and those who don't.

Burgum, a Republican, noted that although North Dakota does not require residents to wear masks in public some people are choosing to wear a face covering. Burgum cautioned people against thinking of that decision as a political one.

Some protesters have attracted attention by refusing to wear masks in grocery stores and other public places, including a recent incident at a Costco warehouse that went viral. Meanwhile, some store owners have reportedly tried to deny service to those wearing masks or face coverings.

"We're all in this together and there's only one battle we're fighting," Burgum said. "And that's the battle of the virus."

Doug Burgum
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks during a press conference on February 22, 2017 in Mandan, North Dakota. Stephen Yang/Getty Images

He added: "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 creating a divide. Either it's ideological or political or something around mask versus no mask.

"This is, I would say, a senseless dividing line and I would ask people to try to dial up your empathy and your understanding. If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support."

President Donald Trump has notably refused to wear a mask in public, although he was recently photographed wearing one during a visit to a Ford plant in Michigan, according to NBC News.

Burgum became emotional as he cited the reasons people could have for wearing a face mask.

"They might be doing it because they've got a 5-year-old child who's been going through cancer treatments," he said. "They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have COVID-19 and they're fighting.

"So again, I would just love to see our state, as part of being 'North Dakota smart', also be 'North Dakota kind,' 'North Dakota empathetic,' 'North Dakota understanding,' to do this thing. Because if somebody wants to wear a mask, there should be no mask shaming."

Burgum allowed some nonessential businesses in the state to start reopening on May 1.

North Dakota has 2,365 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 52 deaths, according to the latest figures from the North Dakota Department of Health.