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Bismarck strikes down penalties and fines to push mask strategy forward

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 8:31 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The Bismarck City Commission passed a revised pandemic mitigation plan last night, which includes a mask strategy.

After a more than five hour meeting at the City/County Building on Oct. 27, Bismarck City Commissioners voted 3-2 to enact a pandemic mitigation strategy for Bismarck. Masks couldn’t conceal the emotion and concern that last night’s Bismarck City Commission meeting generated.

“We’re all Covid-19 exhausted. We don’t want to talk about it anymore. We don’t want to deal with it. And if we just had a magic wand, we’d get rid of it and go back to our old life,” said Bismarck City Commissioner Greg Zenker.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided they didn’t want a mask mandate, but a strategy for combatting COVID-19 instead.

The plan includes recommendations for social distancing and hygiene practices, as well as mask wearing rules for public spaces. In the 3-2 vote, Commissioner Mark Splonskowski, whose regularly spoken out against masks, voted no on the strategy. Mayor Steve Bakken was the second no vote.

Many people voiced their concern over monetary penalties on noncompliant businesses.

“I can’t wear a mask. So now my employer is going to be faced with me having to choose if I’m going to come to work or if they’re going to let me go because they’re getting fined $100, $200, $300, $400 for me not wearing a mask. It’s excessive,” said a Bismarck resident and employee.

Some commissioners agreed it would be a government overreach.

“If we don’t trust our people, how can we expect them to trust us? And so we need to allow people to do what they see as right for them,” said Bismarck City Commissioner Mark Splonskowski.

While others said leaving mask wearing to individual responsibility hasn’t worked thus far.

“If there’s no reason for people to do this, why’re we doing it?” said Bismarck City Commissioner Nancy Guy.

Currently, both businesses and individuals can still choose whether to participate in the virus mitigation strategies or not. With the penalties for businesses redacted, the Bismarck mask strategy will not be enforceable.

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