Mandan passes 'honor code' mask mandate

mandan commission 11/10
The Mandan City Commission met on Tuesday, Nov. 10, to discuss a citywide mask-wearing mandate. Screenshot.

MANDAN, N.D. — The Mandan City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of an unenforceable mask mandate on Tuesday, Nov. 10, following suit of other cities in North Dakota.

Mandan adopted a 30-day mask mandate that requires a person to wear a face covering in all public indoor settings when a 6-foot social distance cannot be maintained. Like other North Dakota cities that also passed mask mandates, there is no penalty for noncompliance.

The mandate and COVID-19 plan passed Tuesday mirrors one the Bismarck City Commission adopted late last month.

Mandan City Commissioners wanted to implement some sort of mitigation strategy as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase in the area, but they voted to adopt a mandate that has a "middle ground."

"How can we try to balance the needs of all our residents here?" Mandan Commissioner Joseph Camisa asked Tuesday. "Having time to see Bismarck's plan in action, I think their plan has a lot of flexibility that I'm looking for for our community. ... It's basically not a mandate. It's basically the honor code."


The Mandan City Commission was the latest government entity to approve a mask mandate. Many cities, like Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and, more recently, Williston and Rugby, have implemented citywide mandates as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase. Gov. Doug Burgum has refused to mandate any sort of statewide COVID-19 mitigation strategy since the order to close restaurants, salons and other businesses expired last spring.

Burgum has come under increasing fire from doctors and health experts for not implementing a statewide mask mandate, and North Dakota continues to lead the nation in cases and deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Throughout the pandemic, he has been adamant that a person should exercise "personal responsibility" in deciding whether to wear a mask around other people and that allowing people to make their own decision about mask-wearing does a better job in curbing COVID-19 spread than a governmental order.

Morton and Burleigh counties enacted mask mandates on county-owned property this week that also do not have penalties for noncompliance.

Morton County, which encompasses Mandan, had 183 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to The New York Times.

The commissioners discussed concerns over local hospital capacity Tuesday, as Burgum recently announced hospital capacity was at 100% statewide, and the state was experiencing an extreme staffing shortage.

The Mandan City Commission limited public comment to 30 minutes collectively for each side: those who were for and against the mandate. Mayor Tim Helbling said that he wanted a time limit, as the Bismarck City Commission met and discussed a mask mandate for more than four hours.

The majority of Mandan citizens spoke up against a citywide mask mandate Tuesday, citing personal freedoms and health concerns over wearing a mask.


Helbling and Mandan Commissioner Dennis Rohr voted against the mandate. Helbling said he does not support a mandate coming from the government as he believes it infringes a person's freedom.

"I personally have a problem with a mandate," he said Tuesday. "Telling a private person they have to mask up, I think that's overstepping."

The mandate will begin Wednesday, Nov. 11, and expire on Dec. 10, when the city commission will reevaluate the mandate and its effectiveness.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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