FARGO — Fargo City Commissioners voted on Monday night, Jan. 11, to extend the city's mask mandate by one month from Jan. 18 through Feb. 18.

The state mandate will expire on Jan. 18, and Gov. Doug Burgum hasn't said if he will keep it in place.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said people are "doing a good job" about wearing masks. Even though cases are falling, he said, until more people are vaccinated, he would support extending it in Fargo for another month.

"We're not over it yet," Mahoney, who is a physician, said.

Statewide, he said, cites are finding at least 70% compliance with the mask mandates.

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He was backed up by Fargo Cass Public Health Director Desi Fleming, who called the mask mandate an "important strategy" along with other steps to keep the virus under control. Besides the need for more vaccines, she said she was worried about a new variant of the virus coming to the county.

She showed a chart illustrating how cases started dropping significantly when the mask mandate was put in place. Active cases in Cass County had fallen to 388 as of Monday, down from over 1,000 in November.

Commissioners Arlette Preston and John Strand joined Mahoney in voting to extend the mandate.

Preston said that should be the minimum length of time it's extended. Mahoney said it could be revisited again in a month.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, who once again voted against the mandate along with Commissioner Tony Gehrig, argued it wasn't "technically a mandate."

"With a mandate, you have to have consequences," he said. "But there's no penalty, so it's not a mandate."

When asked, City Attorney Erik Johnson said it was a mandate if that's what it's called.

Fleming said they are finishing up vaccinating health care workers and first responders this week, with those 75 and older next in line starting in the coming few weeks.

She expected 2,500 vaccines to be put in people's arms this week across the county.

Coronavirus deaths have been at zero in the state for three straight days, she said, with hospitalizations falling below 100. She said 177 Cass County residents have died from the virus, with the state number at 1,352.