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Potential mask mandate could be enacted in Bismarck

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 6:22 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - With Fargo, West Fargo, Minot, and New Town all establishing mask mandates this week, could Bismarck be next? The City Board of Health met Wednesday night, and they didn’t rule it out.

Coming forward to speak out during the meeting were public health, business, and education representatives, all of which are asking the city to consider bringing forward a mask mandate to try to bring Burleigh County’s positivity rate down.

Burleigh County moved from moderate risk to high risk COVID-19 status last week, but some are concerned the county could soon be moved into the critical risk category, which would close nonessential businesses again.

The Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC said businesses have been telling them a mask mandate would help them stay open.

“There has to be a mask mandate to level the playing field because we have customers going elsewhere. If we follow the rules and we require masks, they will go elsewhere,” said Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC President Bryan Ritter.

It’s not just businesses that are struggling, it’s educators, like Superintendent Jason Hornbacher who says entire classrooms have had to quarantine due to COVID-19, and also overwhelmed public health workers.

“The hospitals, he workers, the physicians are tired, they’re exhausted. The long-term care facility workers are exhausted and tired. We’re losing family members. People are dying alone. And we need to do something,” said Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Director Renae Moch.

Renae Moch concluded saying she’s counting on the city commissioners to do the right thing. But not everyone is on the same page.

Commissioner Mark Splonskowski said a mask mandate is excessive government force.

“No matter where you work, no matter where you go, you have to wear a mask, so therefore, you’re stuck,” said Splonskowski.

Splonskowski cast the lone ‘no vote’ on efforts to draft a potential mask mandate in Bismarck and in city buildings.

The city commission held a special meeting on Oct. 22 where they approved stricter mask use policies for city employees and within city buildings.

On Tuesday, the commission is scheduled to meet again to vote on the potential citywide mandate.

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