North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum Issues Mask Mandate & Limits Gathering Size

'Where is the data that shows COVID comes out more after 10 o'clock?...'

(Headline USA) After months of resisting ordering the people of North Dakota to wear masks and limit the size of gatherings, the state’s Republican governor relented.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order Friday night came as a surprise and only hours before the state recorded new daily records for cases, a meaningless metric, and hospitalizations.

Throughout the pandemic, the former software executive had been leaving it to individuals to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread of the virus, beseeching the public during his weekly press briefings to wear masks but emphasizing a “light touch” by government.

But in a video message announcing his new restrictions, which took effect Saturday and will remain in effect until Dec. 13, a somber Burgum said, “Our situation has changed, and we must change with it.”

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In a news release, he said the state’s doctors and nurses “need our help, and they need it now.”

After a spring in which North Dakota had relatively few COVID-19 cases, the disease spread rapidly over the summer and has only picked up steam since.

.Under the order, people throughout the state must wear face coverings inside of businesses and indoor public settings, as well as in outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.

It includes exceptions for children under age 5, individuals with a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, and religious services.

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Failure to comply comes with a penalty of up to $1,000, though it’s unclear how the order will be enforced.

Grand Forks Police Sgt. Barb McLeod said the department was reviewing the order.

“We’re going to focus on education and will try very hard not to file charges,” she said.

Officers may respond to a call if from someone reports that another person isn’t wearing a face covering, she said.

“We will try to educate them and explain the new rules that we all have to abide by,” she said. “Hopefully, that takes care of it. That is our hope.”

Burgum also directed all bars and restaurants to limit capacity to 50%, and he closed all in-person service between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Large-scale venues also are limited to 25% capacity.

Not everyone will obey the new order.

Rick Becker, a Republican state representative who is a plastic surgeon and who owns two bars in downtown Bismarck, said Saturday that he will refuse to wear a mask and that he suspects many others in the conservative state will protest the “draconian” directive.

“The electorate is going to be split,” Becker said. “People who want the government to take care of them will be happy.”

Becker, though, said he thinks the order to close bars at 10 p.m. is nonsensical.

“Where is the data that shows COVID comes out more after 10 o’clock?” he said.

Playoff championship contests and performance events sponsored by the North Dakota High School Activities Association during the month of November may continue under the order. But all high school winter sports and other extracurricular K-12 school activities are suspended until Dec. 14.

Burgum said the pause in activities will help keep schools open to in-person instruction.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.

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