North Dakota Governor Reverses Course, Imposes Face Mask Mandate

Ralph Ellis

November 16, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

As North Dakota hospitals strain under the load of more coronavirus patients, Gov. Doug Burgum reversed himself Friday and imposed a statewide face mask order along with other restrictions.

"Our situation has changed, and we must change with it," Burgum said in a news release. "Tonight, we're announcing four measures designed to reduce the spread of infections in our communities to protect our most vulnerable and to ensure hospital capacity."

People in North Dakota are now required to cover their faces in indoor businesses and in all indoor public settings where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Bars and restaurants must observe 50% capacity and banquets and event venues 25% capacity, with masks and social distancing required. Public school winter sports and extracurricular activities are called off until Dec. 14, though school playoff championship competition can continue through the month.

Burgum had previously resisted calls for a statewide order, stressing "personal responsibility," the Bismarck Tribune reported. Several cities, including Bismarck, have local orders.

But the state is staggering under a coronavirus surge, with more than 60,000 cases and 700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Recent North Dakota Department of Health information shows 421 people hospitalized who tested positive for the virus, with 50 of those patients in ICU. Only about 8.5% of staffed hospital beds remain available.

"We are now in desperate need of implementing stronger measures in order to save lives and preserve our health care workforce and capacity," Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease specialist and professor of public health at North Dakota State University, said in Burgum's news release.

The coronavirus has hammered the West and Midwest this fall, and other governors took action Friday to curb the spread of the virus.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down and imposed capacity limits on essential retail businesses, such as grocery stores and big box stores.

In a news release, Grisham said COVID hospitalizations have risen 214% in four weeks and the state has recorded 182 COVID-related deaths in two weeks -- a 143% increase over the prior two-week period. She said that "more aggressive restrictions are not only warranted but essential if we are to prevent mass casualties."

The Oregon state government on Friday issued these restrictions Friday: Social events are limited to six people from no more than two households, faith-based groups are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, bars and restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery, and gyms, museums, swimming pools and other recreational facilities are closed.
"If we want to give Oregon a fighting chance, we must take further measures to flatten the curve and save lives. I know this is hard, and we are weary," Gov. Kate Brown said in a news release.
"But we are trying to stop this ferocious virus from quickly spreading far and wide. And in Oregon, we actually can do this."


ND Government. Burgum announces new requirements for businesses, gatherings and masks, delays winter activities to slow spread of COVID-19

Bismarck Tribune. "In reversal, North Dakota governor issues mask mandate, other steps to slow virus"

North Dakota Covid Dashboard

NM Government. "N.M. hits 'reset,' re-enacting most heightened level of statewide public health restrictions"

Oregon Government. "Governor Kate Brown Announces Statewide Two-Week Freeze to Stop Rapid Spread of COVID-19"