Five northeast North Dakota counties this week put in place pandemic mitigation orders to wear face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 after a statewide mask mandate would no longer be in effect.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday, Jan. 15, that effective Monday, Jan. 18, at 8 a.m., a statewide mask mandate would be rescinded.

In response, Pembina, Walsh and Nelson counties issued orders, effective Friday, Jan. 21, that face coverings are required in businesses and outdoor and public settings when social distancing is not possible. Meanwhile, Traill and Steele counties announced mask mandates that had been earlier put in place will remain in effect.

Grand Forks County Health Officer Dr. Joel Walz was the first in northeast North Dakota to issue a face-covering order after Burgum rescinded the statewide mask mandate. On Saturday, Jan. 16, Walz issued a health officer order requiring that face masks or face coverings be worn by Grand Forks County residents, effective at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 18.

The Pembina, Walsh and Nelson county mask mitigation orders, similar to the Grand Forks order, includes exemptions for children younger than 5 years old and people who have medical conditions, mental health conditions or disabilities that make it unreasonable to maintain a face covering. The exemptions also include when an individual is participating in a religious service at a faith-based organization, provided there is social distancing, to the extent possible, between people who aren’t members of the same household.

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