AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Last week North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued a statewide mask mandate that will be in place until Dec. 14, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
While the governor’s abrupt announcement last Friday evening may have come as a surprise to many state residents, it really shouldn’t have. Many North Dakota cities have already enacted mandatory mask requirements and health officials across the state have been calling for a mandate as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
And the number of active cases needs to be a concern for everyone. As of Sunday, North Dakota had 10,900 active coronavirus cases and went over the 1 million mark when it comes to the number of tests administered since the pandemic began. And in McKenzie County, the number of active cases climbed to 132.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Burgum has preached that state residents needed to practice personal responsibility to help slow the spread of the virus.
But obviously, the vast majority of North Dakotans failed to follow that message. And as a result we now have a mandate to wear a mask in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.
In addition to the mask mandate, Burgum also signed an executive order that limits bars, restaurants and food service establishments to 50 percent of their licensed seated capacity, not to exceed 150 patrons, and closed those businesses to in-person service between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
While high school sporting events and other activities will be allowed through the end of November, all winter sporting events, including community and club sports for youth and adults have been put on hold until Dec. 14 under the governor’s order.
The obvious question is what will happen if nothing changes under the new state mask mandate. Will schools be forced to move to distant learning like we saw last spring? Will restaurants and bars, as well as other businesses be forced to close down?
The answer to those questions will depend on how North Dakotans follow the mask mandate. If the mask mandate succeeds in getting the state’s number of active COVID-19 cases down to a manageable level, one can assume that some of the restrictions may go away.
So do your part. Wear a mask when you are in going to a business. Everyone wants to keep our schools and businesses open. We want to see our healthcare systems be able to have the capacity to treat all patients, as well as those that are being admitted from the virus.
While wearing a mask may be inconvenient, it’s something that we all need to do.