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Burgum imposes statewide mask mandate; other mitigation measures to slow COVID-19 spread

Governor Doug Burgum has announced four new mitigation measures, including a statewide mask mandate, aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“Our doctors and nurses heroically working on the front lines need our help, and they need it now,” Burgum said in a video message announcing the measures. “Since the beginning, we’ve taken a data driven approach to our pandemic response, focusing on saving lives and livelihoods. Right now, the data demands a higher level of mitigation efforts to reverse these dangerous trends, to slow the spread of this virus and to avoid the need for economic shutdown.”

The measures include a State Health Officer order which requires face coverings to be worn in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible. This order is in effect from November 14 through December 13, and includes exceptions for children under the age of 5, as well as individuals with medical or mental health conditions or disabilities. Religious services are also exempt.

The other mitigation measures are set to take effect Monday, November 16 and deal with public gatherings:

-All bars, restaurants and food service establishments will be limited to 50 percent capacity, not to exceed 150 patrons, and will be closed to in-person service between the hours of 10pm and 4am. Takeout and delivery options will be allowed during those hours. Those businesses already following the ND Smart Restart recommendations of 25 percent capacity will now be allowed to safely welcome more customers into their establishments with the required masking and distancing.

Burgum says the state is making available $54 million through a hospitality grant program to help these businesses through this time. Another $70 million has been made available through the Bank of North Dakota to buy down interest on eligible existing debt brought on by the pandemic.

-All banquet, ballroom and event venues will be limited to 25 percent of their maximum occupancy. Physical distancing and masks will be required.

-Sporting events hosted by the North Dakota High School Activities Association may continue through Sunday, November 15. All high school winter sports and other K-12 extracurricular school activities will be suspended until December 14. This also applies to all association, community and club sports for youth and adults. College and intercollegiate activities must follow guidance from the North Dakota University System. Burgum says the month-long pause in activities will help schools stay open to in-person instruction.

Anyone who violates the mask and capacity requirements may be cited for an infraction. Burgum urged law enforcement and public health agencies to prioritize education in the enforcement of the orders; providing warnings and reserving penalties for the most egregious public health violations.

Dr. Paul Carson is an infectious disease specialist and professor of public health at North Dakota State University, as well as physician advisor to the state’s COVID-19 response. “Despite North Dakota’s remarkable efforts at testing and case finding, these measures are no longer enough, and we are now in desperate need of implementing stronger measures in order to save lives and preserve our health care workforce and capacity,” he said. “We have a growing body of good evidence that masking, especially when paired with other mitigation strategies, can substantially reduce the spread of the virus. I am very grateful that the Governor has taken the bold measure to implement an enforced mask mandate across the state, and am hopeful this will help flatten the curve.”

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