Bismarck City Commission adopts mask mandate without penalties | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Bismarck City Commission adopts mask mandate without penalties

Oct 28, 2020

Bismarck City Commissioners Nancy Guy, Steve Marquart, Mayor Steve Bakken, Mark Splonskowski and Greg Zenker.
Credit City of Bismarck

Bismarck has become the latest North Dakota city to adopt a mask mandate, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The vote was 3 to 2.

The mandate does not have any penalties.

Commissioner Nancy Guy said she proposed the mandate, because she fears if Bismarck and Burleigh County don’t reduce the positivity rate, businesses and schools could again face shutdowns.

"We're not getting the job done," Guy said. "We don't have enough people doing it (wearing masks), in order for it to be making a difference."

Guy said not changing the city's approach to this will prolong "our economic stagnation, and our community anguish."

Guy also criticized Gov. Doug Burgum for not imposing a statewide mask mandate.

"He's made it real clear he's not going to do that," Guy said. "But if we get up to that 15 percent rolling average in positive tests, I fully believe we will have another economic shutdown -- and that will come from him."

Guy was joined by Commissioners Greg Zenker and Steve Marquart in voting yes. But neither Zenker nor Marquart would have voted for it if there were penalties to businesses.

One no vote came from Commissioner Mark Splonskowski.

"I will not support a mask mandate tonight, or ever, unless the science is absolutely definitive and undisputed, and the death rate is exponentially higher," Splonskowski said. "I will not infringe upon the rights of the people."

Mayor Steve Bakken was the other no vote. He said he still believes in personal responsibility.

"If you can't distance, wear a mask," Bakken said.

The mandate takes effect Nov. 1, and will be in effect for a month. At that time, commissioners will revisit the mandate.

About a half-dozen other cities in North Dakota have adopted mandates.