Burgum called the political debate over whether to wear a facial covering in public a "senseless dividing line," and he said he was asking his citizens "to try to dial up [their] empathy and understanding."

Masks are not presently required in North Dakota. There has been heated debate as all 50 states have begun to relax stay-at-home orders over whether facial coverings and particularly their requirement in some areas are necessary particularly among people who believe the COVID-19 pandemic is exaggerated or believe mandated masks are a violation of civil liberties, as The Associated Press reported.

During a Friday visit to a Ford manufacturing facility in Michigan, the president was photographed without a mask, though he said he wore one during a tour of the facility but took it off because he did not want the media to see him wearing it. Trump similarly said he wore a mask "backstage" during a tour of a Honeywell factory on May 6. Vice President Mike Pence was also photographed without a mask when he visited the Mayo Clinic at the end of April.

The president reportedly fears wearing a face mask will harm his chances at reelection and make him look ridiculous.

It hasn't just been White House leaders stroking divisions surrounding the facial coverings. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month defended his decision to go mask-free when visiting a thrift store for veterans in Joplin, Missouri. He said he didn't believe it was the "government's place" to determine whether residents should wear a face mask in public and it was up to the individual.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said last month that Ohioans would be required to wear face masks in reopened businesses, though after protest he said it was just a recommendation and that his mandate went "too far." The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in April that facial coverings be worn in public , though US leaders had earlier said masks should only be worn by medical professionals or people who test positive for COVID-19 .

"If someone is wearing a mask they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a 5-year-old child who's going through cancer treatments," Burgum said, as his voice began to shake and he took a brief pause.

"They might have vulnerable adults who currently have COVID and are fighting," he added. "So again I would love to see our state as part of being ' North Dakota Smart ' also be North Dakota kind, North Dakota empathetic."

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