Governor Doug Burgum says the state health officer order that mandates the wearing of face coverings in North Dakota will expire as scheduled on Monday, January 18 at 8am.
At a COVID-19 briefing with the state health department, Burgum says the state is currently in a much different position than it was just a couple of months ago. Active cases have dropped by over 80 percent, hospitalizations have dropped 74 percent and the 14-day rolling positivity rate is now the 4th lowest in the nation at 4.7 percent.
While the mask order is being lifted, Burgum says he still urges North Dakotans to do the simple things that mitigate the spread of COVID-1: wear a mask, wash your hands, and maintain physical distance from others.
"We still strongly support mask wearing as part of the important work we need to do to contain this virus, and maintain this strong position we are in. Cities, counties, school districts and others have the opportunity to retain their local mask requirements in place, and the state supports those locally enacted protocols, and strongly encourages North Dakotans as we have throughout this entire pandemic to exercise their individual responsibility, and mask when physical distancing is not possible."
Representative Jeff Hoverson of Minot is introducing a bill during the legislative session that would prevent state and local officials from ordering mask mandates. Burgum says while this mask order is being allowed to expire, North Dakota is still in a state of emergency, and any discussion about ending that status is absurd. He says it would jeopardize the state’s access to federal funding, testing supplies and personal protective equipment.
"Even when we were at our crunch in November, when the Department of Defense nurses came to North Dakota - it's unlikely that those would have been moved to any state that was advertising that they didn't think there was any kind of emergency going on. So in turn, the breaking of this long-standing procedure and process for federal and state and local partnerships during an emergency - it would jeopardize the health of our citizens, and the economy."
Burgum pointed out that while North Dakota’s COVID statistics have trended downward, surrounding states in the area are still struggling to get their arms around the virus. He says the virus will not respect borders – so while a more contagious strain has been detected in Minnesota, it is important for North Dakotans to remain vigilant.