MINOT, N.D. — Yesterday, Nov. 10, some 30 North Dakotans died with COVID-19, bringing our state's total since the pandemic began to 674.
I haven't seen the numbers yet for today, Nov. 11, but I think we can count on them bringing news of more death.
Our hospitals are overwhelmed. Yesterday Gov. Doug Burgum said they are at 100% capacity. Things are so bad, Burgum's administration has amended a previous executive order to "allow health care workers with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to continue working in hospitals' COVID-19 units."
That's what is going on out here in the real world.
In the Bastiat Caucus, which is a group of Republican lawmakers who seem to operate in some alternate plane of reality, they're still fighting against masking, and accusing those critical of their stance of shaming.
As a part of their organizing efforts ahead of their 2021 session, the House Republican Lawmakers are meeting tonight, Nov. 11, in Bismarck, to attend to business such as electing the Speaker of the House and Majority Leader. The rules for the meeting require social distancing and masking, abiding not just by the City of Bismarck's masking ordinance, but basic human decency amid a terrible public health emergency.
Members of the caucus can also attend online if they wish.
Earlier this week I reported that two Bastiats — leader Rep. Dan Ruby and Rep. Jeff Hoverson, both of Minot — indicated they wouldn't be masking at the meeting. "I plan to attend the meeting in person but I do not intend to wear a mask," Ruby told the caucus in an email chain about the meeting which I obtained.
Add another Bastiat to that list. "If you plan on shaming/not allowing legislators to attend session because my district largely does not believe in masks,, [sic] you will have to explain that to a very angry District 36," Rep. Luke Simons of Dickinson wrote in an email sent at 1:25 a.m. this morning, Nov. 11. "We all represent the same amount of constituents here making us all equals. There is no law anywhere that requires me or anyone to wear a mask."
Ruby also accused caucus chair, Rep. Shannon Roers Jones of Fargo, of "shaming" those dissenting against the mask rule.
In a Nov. 10 email seeking to clarify the masking and social distancing rules, Roers Jones asked her fellow Republicans to wear a mask out of respect for their colleagues. "I ask those opposed to the masks to consider their legislative colleagues. The majority of our members fall in the high risk category due to age and underlying conditions," she wrote.
"And the no mask shaming begins," Ruby shot back in reply. "That’s right, we’re uncaring, selfish, and inconsiderate. Thank you Ms. Caucus Chair. I never said anything derogatory about people who want to wear masks and I never demanded that they be in close proximity to me."
After my column on this matter from earlier this week, a Republican lawmaker from the House told me that he's upset about how little regard Ruby and the other mask dissenters have for this health. He's elderly and has other health conditions which put him at risk for COVID-19. "Why can't they respect my health?" he asked.
It's a fair question, and an important one given that this squabbling ahead of the House Republican caucus meeting is likely a preview of what will take place as the full Legislature attempts to institute measures to inhibit the spread of the virus at their session beginning in January.
What exactly are the Bastiats fighting against? The very trivial inconvenience of wearing a mask?
Even if you don't believe that masks make a difference, rejecting the conclusions of both logic and scientific inquiry as to their impact on diminishing the spread of a highly contagious airborne virus, why not do it out of respect for the people you work with?
I'm all for a robust defense of even the most trivial exercise of our liberties, but how did masks become the hill a supposedly pro-liberty political movement chose to die on?
Principle is one thing; obstinance is another.
Please, wear a mask, and stop being a jerk about it.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.