Port: Survey shows 55 percent of North Dakotans support mask mandate, 68 percent report wearing one regularly

The results of a survey of 590 North Dakotans who Peske said are "diverse in age, gender, race and location" show that 55 percent of North Dakotans support a mask mandate, and 68 percent say they're wearing masks regularly.

Claire Pokornowski helps her daughter, Quinn, mask up after the family was tested for COVID-19 Tuesday at the UND High Performance Center. Claire's husband, Alex Pokornowski, is in the background with son, Griffin. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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MINOT, N.D. — Earlier this month, I wrote a column asking why state officials weren't tracking mask use.

The question of masks, and mask mandates, have come to dominate the debate around the COVID-19 outbreak, and it seems logical that some survey data documenting trends in mask use among North Dakotans might help inform that debate.

"We don’t currently have any metrics on mask use in North Dakota," Nicole Peske, the chief communications officer for the Department of Health, told me when I inquired, at that time, about the data.

It seems since then the state has decided to start collecting some information. This afternoon Peske sent me what she described as "preliminary data" on mask use in the state.

The results of a survey of 590 North Dakotans who Peske said are "diverse in age, gender, race and location" show that 55 percent of North Dakotans support a mask mandate, and 68 percent say they're wearing masks regularly.


That's below the national average of 85 percent measured by the Pew Research Center , and also below research from Carnegie Mellon University showing North Dakota's masking rate at nearly 75 percent .

Image provided by the North Dakota Department of Health

The data collected by the state also breaks down "mask compliance" geographically and by age, and the results are all over the map. Williston appears to have some of the lowest compliance among the cities documented, though they have very high compliance in the 35-44 age demographic, while the rest of the cities — Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Dickinson — all seem somewhat equivalent.

What to make of this data?

I hope the state continues to do this research so we can build some trends. The more survey data points we have, the more precise picture we can paint of mask adoption. Also, tracking the trends in mask use over time so that we can juxtapose it with data about the spread of the virus would be enormously useful.

Also, it's not surprising that the state has below-average adoption of masks. Even if we account for the fact that North Dakota is f inding more coronavirus cases because we're testing more than everyone else , the spread of the virus here has been terrible in recent weeks. If masks help, and I believe they do, it would make sense that we would have lower rates of mask use.

Even understanding that masks, despite the amount of attention they get in the news media, are hardly the only variable when it comes to the spread of the virus, if our state's mask adoption rate goes up, we can reasonably expect that the spread of the virus will go down.


Again, I hope the state continues to collect this data. It may do more to win people over to masking than those phony-baloney mask "mandates" some of the state's cities have been passing.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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