While defending both positions, Governor Doug Burgum said there may be some “theoretical conflict” in his opposition to mandating the use of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 while supporting an effort that would allow law enforcement to ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt.
In his weekly press conference to address the state’s pandemic response, Burgum was asked how he reconciled the two positions, “when personal freedom and responsibilities are arguments in both debates.”
You can watch his full response to the question above.
Burgum said he supports compliance “in both cases.” “If I thought that by not having a seat belt law that we could get more people to wear their seat belt, that’s the camp I’d be in,” he said.
But Burgum says “the data is very, very strong for seat belts saving lives.” He said he hopes the North Dakota Legislature will revisit the question in the upcoming legislative session after it defeated such a bill in 2019.
“If I’m sitting in my driveway and not going anywhere and wearing a seat belt, I’m not helping anybody else,” Burgum said. “But If I’m putting a mask on and going into public, I’m helping other people — and so this is a different thing. This is a community thing.”
Burgum said he’s not sure that a mask mandate would result in more North Dakotans wearing masks in public. “It might actually do the opposite in North Dakota,” he said.
He added that he thinks studies that find mask mandates to be effective in other states do not necessarily mean North Dakota would have the same outcome.
“The states that had those mandates and had high compliance probably had a majority of people that wanted the state to have a mask mandate,” Burgum said. “We’re in a state where the majority of people don’t want to have a mask mandate.”