Tearful Republican Governor Attacks Political Fight Over COVID-19 Face Masks

Mary Papenfuss

North Dakota’s Republican governor issued a heartfelt plea to state residents not to turn wearing face masks to protect public health amid the COVID-19 crisis into a “senseless dividing line.”

“We’re all in this together, and there’s only one battle we’re fighting, and that’s the battle of the virus,” Gov. Doug Burgum said at a press briefing Friday.

“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 mask vs. no mask,” he added. “This is a ... senseless dividing line.”

There is no state requirement to wear a face mask, but Burgum urged empathy for those who choose to wear the protective gear.

“I would ask people to dial up your empathy and your understanding,” said the governor. “If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in, or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments [or] have vulnerable adults in their life,” he added, his voice breaking.

“Be North Dakota kind, North Dakota empathetic,” he said.

Burgum said “there should be no mask shaming.” He urged North Dakotans to assume people wearing masks face extra health risks in their lives, or are “trying to take care” of people they love, adding: “Let’s just start there.”

Moved followers on Twitter hailed Burgum’s sense and empathy. He has an 80% approval rating in the state for how he has dealt with COVID-19.

But others called out the usually staunch supporter of face mask-averse President Donald Trump for failing to mention GOP party leaders who are turning a safety issue into what Burgum called a “senseless dividing line.”

As of Saturday, 2,365 people in the state had tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in 52 deaths.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.