October 20, 2020


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

North Dakotans across the board have very strong opinions as to whether or not they should be required to wear a face mask whenever they go into the public and are unable to maintain safe social distancing in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Many businesses in the state are already mandating that people wear face masks while in their stores, and now many school districts are requiring that teachers and staff wear masks. So far all of those mandates have been voluntarily imposed.
But as the number of positive coronavirus cases continues to increase in the state, the question as to whether or not face masks should be required is increasing.
And North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum isn’t setting a clear direction on whether or not he is willing to issue a mask mandate. After listening to his impassioned plea to state residents to wear a mask to show their love of their schools, their businesses and communities, it is obvious that he believes everyone should be wearing a mask when they can’t ensure social distancing. And he has gently prodded the public to mask-up by stating that if people are wearing a mask and do come in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus, they will avoid being subject to the 14-day quarantine period.
The governor has clearly stated he wants to keep the state’s schools and businesses open. That explains why when last week as 16 counties were moved to the high-risk level, the state only recommended that businesses restrict occupancy in restaurants and bars to 25 percent and capped the number of people who can attend events.
That wishy-washy action by the governor is downright confusing. Will the governor only impose a mask mandate when forced to at the recommendation of city mayors? And then does he take responsibility for that decision or will he pass the buck down to the local officials?
Personally, I’m not an advocate of a mask mandate. But I understand the reasons why people should be wearing one to help get the spread of this virus under control as we move into the flu season.
If North Dakotans only look at how the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise, it becomes pretty clear that what we are currently doing is not working.
Is it time for the governor to issue a mask mandate? It has to be his call.