Bismarck City Commissioners have decided – for the moment – not to adopt a mask mandate to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force recommended that local governments look at adopting mask mandates, because of the growth in the number of coronavirus cases in the two counties.
Task Force Member Dr. John Hagen is the medical director at the state Penitentiary. He told the Commission there has only been one COVID case in the past week, among 1,600 residents.
"Since the second week of March, every staff member has worn a mask," Hagen said. "Every day, when you walk in the door, the mask goes on. That's all."
Hagen said it's become part of the uniform.
"As a result, as the rate rises across the state, it doesn't rise in this vulnerable population," Hagen said.
Several other members of the task force appeared to support a mandate.
Bismarck resident Kendi Chase appeared to oppose the mandate. She told the Commission she’s in favor of taking steps to protect the most vulnerable populations – such as the elderly – from the virus.
"But to ask all of us to somehow believe that we are responsible for someone else's health, I don't agree with," Chase said.
The task force has hired a Bismarck advertising agency to launch a public education campaign around best practices for stopping the spread of the virus. Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken – who is a member of the task force – said he thinks that effort should be given time to work.
"My biggest concern is keeping the economy moving, and getting the kids back in school," Bakken said. "I don't think government mandates drives those trends for compliance."
Bakken said it's the educational piece and the messaging piece, that people need to do the right thing for the right reason.
"If somebdy's telling them they are doing something for the right reason, or they have to do something for the right reason, it's going to go in one ear and out the other. I'm not a fan of that."
No motion was offered at Tuesday's meeting.