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Bismarck imposes mask mandate that carries no penalties

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota’s capital city is imposing a mask mandate as the number of coronavirus cases, deaths, and hospitalizations continue to mount in the state.

The Bismarck City Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday night for the mandate which carries no penalties for violations.

The initial proposal commissioners discussed included fines for businesses who did not enforce the mandate. But the penalties were removed after some commissioners said they would not vote for a mandate that penalized businesses, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Bismarck residents must wear a mask while in indoor public settings and when exposed to people outside their household if 6 feet (1.8 meters) of distance cannot be maintained.

Dozens of residents spoke at the meeting, including several doctors who supported a mask mandate and many people who felt that a mandate would infringe on their constitutional rights and freedoms.

Bismarck joins more than half a dozen other North Dakota cities that have recently implemented mask mandates. Gov. Doug Burgum has resisted ordering a statewide mandate and has instead encouraged personal responsibility.

North Dakota health officials on Wednesday reported 12 hospitalizations in the last day due to the coronavirus, boosting the total number of patients in medical facilities to a record 178.

A dozen new deaths were reported, bringing the statewide death toll from the virus to 488, The sum includes 217 deaths that have occurred so far in October.

The COVID Tracking Project reported that North Dakota has had more than 1,432 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, which leads the nation.

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