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Anti-mask mandate bill hearing garners a crowd

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - An anti-mask mandate bill that just barely passed through the State House about a month ago is now coming under scrutiny in the Senate.

A crowd gathered outside a committee room as it reached full capacity, saying they couldn’t hear what was going on in the hearing from outside of it.

Those in support of the anti-mask mandate bill said the government shouldn’t be able to force them to wear a mask if they feel they can’t.

“I personally have anxiety when I do wear a mask,” said a Grand Forks resident.

The bill sponsors reached out to a duo of ‘mask experts’ to come to North Dakota to testify in support of the bill, and although they were denied from their Delta flight for not wearing a mask, they did make it to the 8:30 a.m. hearing thanks to a private plane.

“All of a sudden my disability didn’t matter.I was literally told [by Delta] as long as I had ears and wasn’t on oxygen and didn’t have down syndrome there’s no exemptions,” said Industrial Hygienist Kristen Meghan Kelly.

So, the battle of whether mandating masks infringes on freedom or is necessary to protect public safety continues. Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, asked the question, “Does my freedom stop where your health begins?”

State Disease Control Director Kirby Kruger responded, “Yes, we need to make sure that people are understanding that it takes a community to prevent these diseases and the more people that are cooperating and helping with this process the better off we’re going to be.”

Others in opposition to the bill said the statewide mask mandate is the very thing that allowed their kids to safely return to school.

“Had we not been able to require masks and face coverings we almost certainly would’ve had higher transmission rates and additional outbreaks and school closures,” said the Legal Counsel for the North Dakota School Board Association Amy De Kok.

De Kok said the bill is written too broadly, and could restrict school districts from putting any health and safety requirements in place.

The Senate Political Subdivisions committee ended up recommending the bill not be passed by the entire Senate.

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