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Port: Now that Trump has it, can we finally #MaskUpND?

President Trump announces on Twitter that he has COVID-19
The President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, takes to Twitter to announce that he has tested positive for COVID-19
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MINOT, N.D. — President Trump has the coronavirus.

First lady Melania Trump has the coronavirus.

Trump's top aide, Hope Hicks, has the coronavirus.

Think of all the important figures in our national government these folks have been around, including Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Someone who, in turn, just yesterday, met with both of North Dakota's senators, Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven.

It's time for you holdouts to admit that this is serious. It's time to start wearing masks.

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North Dakota has been one of the most pro-Trump states in the nation, and a side effect of that has been an emulation of President Trump's dismissive attitude toward the pandemic. Not necessarily in Gov. Doug Burgum's administration — he's been under fire from the Trumpy wing of his political base for supposedly dictatorial reactions to the pandemic, even as he's been accused of a laissez-faire attitude by the left — but certainly in the public-at-large.

It has to stop.

With his life at risk — the man is 74 years old, overweight, and working the toughest job in the world — it's time for Trump to take this seriously.

It's time for Trump supporters to take this seriously.

It's time for North Dakota to take this seriously.

We're running out of hospital beds . It might not be quite as bad as some of the more sensational headlines are making it out to be, but with virus numbers growing stubbornly, we're closing in on the danger zone. "It is an accurate statement that capacity today has not been a problem in the state of North Dakota ... It could be a problem if we don't turn our numbers around," Burgum said at a recent news conference .

Remember when the state was touting the thousands of beds that could be made available for those afflicted by the virus? Yeah, I was taken in by that too, but those beds aren't worth any more than the one in your bedroom if medical professionals don't staff them.

The number of staffed beds we have is much smaller , and we can't hope to bring in more nurses and doctors from other places because those places are dealing with the virus too.

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State Rep. Rick Becker, a plastic surgeon who has emerged as the chosen voice of North Dakota's it's-not-that-bad crowd, has been saying foolish things about the virus of late. His solution, expressed to my colleague Robin Huebner, is to pretend that the virus doesn't exist. Stop testing. Stop quarantines. Stop mask mandates even to the extent they exist in our region.

This is nonsense, as Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease specialist and public health professor at North Dakota State University, explains in a letter to the editor.

There will be some tempted to dunk on Gov. Burgum's reticence in refusing to implement a mask mandate. He's still right about that policy. "There's no path forward" for a policy, like a mask mandate, "which can't be enforced," Burgum said recently.

Many North Dakotans have stubbornly refused to wear masks so far, despite ample evidence that they help.

Force isn't going to work with them. They need to be persuaded.

If there's a silver lining in the president and the first lady's illness — and I hate saying that because I want a full and speedy recovery for them and everyone else who comes down with this thing — it's that it may be what finally convinces the holdouts to start doing what needs to be done.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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