BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — James Yantzer strode right into a Harbor Freight Instruments retailer in one in every of North Dakota’s worst sizzling spots for the coronavirus, dismissing an indication telling clients to put on a face masks.

“In the event that they kick me out, I will go someplace else,” Yantzer stated, calling masks about as efficient at blocking the virus as “stopping sand with hen wire.” Regardless of the Bismarck retailer’s masks requirement, the 69-year-old trucking firm proprietor wasn’t requested to go away.

“I simply don’t take B.S. from folks,” Yantzer stated. “I rely by myself widespread sense.”

It is a widespread perspective in extremely conservative North Dakota, and one many consider has contributed to the state’s rating in current weeks among the many worst within the nation for coronavirus unfold. The state’s worsening numbers have prompted sharp questions over how Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who’s up for reelection subsequent month, has dealt with the virus.

Even some supporters want Burgum, a rich former Microsoft government, would take a harder line when it comes to requiring masks and imposing limits on social gatherings and enterprise occupancies.

Gus Ereth, a 71-year-old retired railroad employee, thinks Burgum’s carried out job general and is a lock for reelection — the governor has his vote — however want to see him be extra aggressive in opposition to the virus, even when it angers some conservatives. Ereth stated a masks mandate would assist.

“He’ll nonetheless be governor. And what’s it harm?” Ereth stated. “I do know some guys don’t prefer it and suppose it’s a joke, however it’s for their very own profit.”

Burgum bucked the occasion institution to win his first time period in 2016, defeating the mainline GOP’s most popular candidate in a major by pledging to run state authorities like a enterprise. He is clashed incessantly with Republican legislative leaders since then over price range points and his veto powers. This summer time he spent greater than $1.eight million of his personal cash within the state’s major to assist defeat a key Republican who had opposed one in every of Burgum’s high priorities — a proposed Theodore Roosevelt presidential library in western North Dakota.

In terms of the virus, Burgum has used his weekly press briefings to offer emotional, typically teary pleas supporting face coverings, whereas emphasizing a “mild contact” by authorities. He renewed that theme final week as he raised the coronavirus threat degree in a number of counties whereas declicing to subject any necessary restrictions.

A masks mandate “will not be a magic bullet to make this virus go away,” he stated.

“I believe it’s essential to the way forward for our state that we do perceive that there’s something that’s extra highly effective than an government order, infinitely extra highly effective than a mandate. And these are the beliefs that people maintain of their hearts: compassion, empathy, understanding and, dare I say, truly love,” Burgum stated, choking up.

North Dakota is one in every of 16 states with no masks mandate. Its fee of practically 1,000 day by day new circumstances of the virus per 100,000 folks over the previous two weeks, in accordance with Johns Hopkins knowledge, ranks worst within the nation. The state’s variety of energetic circumstances has risen to file ranges. Deaths are mounting.

North Dakota hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1988. That hasn’t stopped his Democratic opponent, Shelley Lenz, a veterinarian in her first statewide marketing campaign, from attacking him on the problem.

“His crybaby method isn’t working,” she stated of Burgum’s emotional pleas for folks to put on masks. “I believe his tears are actual, however that’s not what we’d like in a pacesetter. He’s placing the blame on companies and people. “

“He’s overwhelmed and is freezing in a disaster,” she stated.

Marketing campaign finance disclosures present Burgum has raised about $1 million in his reelection bid, greater than 3 times Lenz’s whole. Data present Burgum has bankrolled about 80% of the marketing campaign.

Ereth, the retired railroad employee, stated he all the time wears a masks.

“At my age, you may’t fiddle,” he stated.

Roy Nagel, 90, a retired jail guard in Bismarck, stated he virtually all the time wears a masks, too, although he wasn’t just lately whereas standing alone waving an anti-abortion signal at drivers close to the state Capitol.

Nagel thinks the coronavirus “is blown out of proportion,” however that mandating masks isn’t a nasty concept “for the protection of the folks.” He stated he would vote for Burgum regardless.

Greater than 5 dozen North Dakota pediatricians just lately signed a letter urging Burgum to mandate masks. Refusing to take action “ignores sound science and the suggestions of medical consultants at native, state, and nationwide ranges,” the docs wrote.

Three of North Dakota’s high well being officers who have been appointed by Burgum have resigned amid the pandemic. The most recent, Dr. Paul Mariani, give up a day after Burgum reversed himself and rescinded a brand new order that will have enforced quarantines for shut contacts of individuals with the virus.

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Well being Director Renae Moch stated the state’s medical professionals are annoyed.

“What now we have been doing will not be working and now we have do one thing else to anticipate change,” Moch stated.