FARGO — Kudos to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum for issuing a mask mandate along with other tighter restrictions. Yes, it was long overdue, but better late than never. The coronavirus has exploded in the state. We’re the death and infection epicenter of the country. Burgum recognized that his previous policies weren’t working. People in the state have been dying by the hundreds and infected by the thousands. A new approach is needed to try to protect us.

Meantime, it’s disturbing how many elected leaders in the state have come out against this order. Some are sheriffs, state legislators or city commissioners.

With that in mind, it is time to recognize the first class of North Dakota’s COVID-19 Hall of Shame. They are Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee, State Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck, State Rep. Luke Simons of Dickinson, and Fargo City Commissioners Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn.

Lee will not enforce the mandate. Lee said, “People in Stark County don’t like to be told what to do and especially when they feel like their constitutional rights are being infringed upon … I have an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

Becker astonishingly said, “There is no evidence to support a mask mandate … Gov. Burgum has caved to fear. He has chosen fear over logic. He has chosen a false sense of security in place of freedom.”

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Simons shockingly said, “I will not comply to any unconstitutional mandates! ... If you think masks work I would question your research.”

There’s a lot of garbage here to digest. First, I expect those in law enforcement to enforce orders. I also expect lawmakers to understand how our laws work. How would they feel if they passed bills that nobody enforced?

Second, Lee, Becker and Simons seem to have their heads in the sand. The virus is out of control in the state, and something needed to be done to try to save lives.

Third, masks do significantly help prevent the spread of this deadly virus. The CDC and many medical experts are emphatic about this. It’s especially troubling to hear Becker downplay masks. As a physician, he should know better.

Fourth, where does it say in the Constitution that people can’t be required to wear masks during a health crisis? How is it that governments can require you to wear seat belts, obey speed limits, and not smoke in public places, but you can’t be told to wear masks? What’s the freedom they are fighting for? The freedom to infect people?

Lee, Becker and Simons liken themselves to George Washington, but they sound like George McFly.

Gehrig and Piepkorn have shamefully tried to undermine Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney’s efforts to combat the virus. Worse yet, they set poor examples in fighting COVID-19 by refusing to wear masks during city commission meetings.

Instead of helping during this disaster, Lee, Becker, Simons, Gehrig and Piepkorn are making things much worse.

Gotta run. There’s a big announcement at Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email jimshawtv@gmail.com