Mask recommendations return to Fargo-Moorhead universities as schools prepare to resume classes

Fargo Cass Public Health issued recommendations for all people in indoor settings in affected areas to follow CDC guidance and wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

North Dakota State University students line up to take pictures with the masked bison statue on campus during orientation day on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Fargo. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

FARGO — The mask debate is heating up again as the quickly-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus recently prompted national and local health departments to recommend masks for everyone in K-12 schools and indoor public settings in affected areas.

Citing information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fargo Cass Public Health issued recommendations on Tuesday, Aug. 3, for all people in indoor settings in affected areas and K-12 students and teachers to follow CDC guidance and wear masks, regardless of being vaccinated or not.

“The delta variant is 200% more transmissible compared to previous strains of COVID-19,” said Fargo/Cass Public Health spokeswoman Holly Scott in a press release. “In counties with a substantial or high transmission rate, residents are recommended to wear masks in indoor public settings; this includes those who are fully vaccinated.”

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker , cases of the delta variant in Cass County were listed as substantial on Wednesday, Aug. 4. In the past week cases have spiked 3.25%, marking a total of 4.65% total positivity rate, which when compared to a month ago has more than doubled, according to North Dakota's COVID-19 dashboard .

After the recommendation, the Fargo Public School district will be discussing options on what to do, and North Dakota State University changed their mitigation policies to reflect the "worrisome" spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.


"Because vaccination rates are still not high enough, we need to resort to other mitigation efforts. This means masks, which are effective (albeit frustrating) at helping to reduce transmission, need to be used," said NDSU President Dean Bresciani.

Effective Monday, Aug. 9, NDSU is strongly recommending that all people wear masks in indoor spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Additionally, all faculty can require masks to be worn in their classrooms at their discretion, and health care operations on campus will continue to mandate masks in accordance with health care protocols, Bresciani said in the campus update.

Days prior, on July 29, Bresciani issued a campus update saying the university would continue the mask-optional policy originally put in place on June 6.

Some of the university’s additional restrictions are that faculty and students must follow quarantine and isolation guidance from the North Dakota Department of Health, and the university is relying on people volunteering to get vaccinated.

NDSU also plans to continue providing hand-cleaning options and improved air quality in every building, which involves bipolar ionization equipment for all air handlers on campus, Bresciani said.

Bresciani also stressed the importance of students getting vaccinated.

“The real success will depend upon each and every person reading this email to agree to get vaccinated and to follow the CDC’s guidance on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through simple measures like hand washing and giving people some extra space,” Bresciani said in the campus update.


Attempts to contact NDSU’s Faculty Senate President Florin Salajan for more information were unsuccessful.

Across the Red River, Minnesota State University Moorhead will be "strongly recommending" masks and not requiring them, according to university spokeswoman Kristi Monson. Clay County is not a substantial or high-risk area, but the university is prepared to move to mask requirements if needed.

Masks will be required in specific areas on campus, however, such as athletic training areas and clinics, Monson said.

"But this could change. This is a moving target just like last year," she said.

Vaccinations are also not required at MSUM, but the state is offering $100 for any Minnesotan who receives their first dose before Aug. 15, Monson said.

MSUM is also participating in the White House and U.S. Department of Education's COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge offering parking passes and $100 in Dragon Dollars or bookstore credit. So far, more than 100 students and employees have participated, according to a press release from MSUM.

At Concordia College in Moorhead, masks are not required in college buildings or on college grounds for vaccinated individuals. People who are not fully vaccinated (two weeks since final vaccine dose) should wear face coverings indoors and practice social distancing.

A previous version of this story contained incorrect information about the mask policies of Concordia College in Moorhead.

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