the coronavirus crisis

As cases surge in North Dakota, Fargo becomes state's 1st city to issue mask mandate

October 20, 2020
Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

With North Dakota reporting the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the United States, Fargo on Monday became the first city in the state to issue a mask mandate.

"As a community, we must all do our part to greatly reduce the spread of this deadly COVID-19 disease," Mayor Tim Mahoney, a general surgeon, said in a statement. Fargo, North Dakota's biggest city, is in Cass County, which has the state's highest number of COVID-19 cases. Mahoney said he issued the mandate due to increased hospitalizations, a climbing death rate, and the high level of community spread. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has asked people to wear masks, but refuses to impose a statewide mandate, saying it's "not a magic bullet to make this virus go away." Mahoney said that while he supports Burgum, "it would be great" if he enacted a statewide mandate.

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Burgum's decision not to impose a mask mandate has angered members of the health-care community, with more than five dozen pediatricians recently sending him a letter that says by not making masks mandatory, he is ignoring "sound science and the recommendations of medical experts at local, state, and national levels." Three state health officers that Burgum appointed have also quit amid the pandemic, with one stepping down after the governor rescinded a new order that would have forced people to quarantine if they come in close contact with a person infected by the virus, The Associated Press reports.

Over the past week, there have been an average of 700 cases per day in the state — up 70 percent from the average two weeks earlier, The New York Times reports. As of Monday night, the state has recorded 408 COVID-19 related deaths, with 138 occurring this month, the North Dakota Department of Heath said. At least 254 were in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Catherine Garcia

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