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Mask mandate decision was right move

The Minot City Council made the right move Tuesday in delaying any decision on lifting a mask mandate implemented last October as a mitigation measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the city has seen relief from the high infection rate last fall, the council is wise to be cautious about making any changes, given the uncertainty surrounding the virus. The potential for another increase in cases along with the appearance of new virus strains around the country create considerable uncertainty.

Mayor Shaun Sipma has suggested waiting to reconsider the mandate once more of the area’s older, more vulnerable population has been able to be vaccinated. According to First District Health Unit, vaccinations continue for those ages 75 and older, but it could be three weeks before vaccinations are in full swing for individuals age 65 and older, and then only for those with two or more serious health conditions. That leaves a lot of vulnerability remaining in the community at the current time.

Without a penalty, Minot’s mandate is really a recommendation. Still, many businesses have masking policies, and as council member and mandate opponent Paul Pitner pointed out Tuesday, those individual choices by businesses need to be respected.

Mask mandates are controversial, and Minot residents, like residents elsewhere, are divided regarding how they feel about mandates or masks in general. Over the next few weeks, residents need to make their views known to their council members, regardless of which side they are on. That public input will be important to arriving at the best decision when the matter comes back before the council on Feb. 16.

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