The executive order that was set to expire Monday, Dec. 14 will now carry on through the remainder of the year into 2021.

“Given that we still have hospitalizations that are near 300 and we still have among some of the highest per capita in the country, we are extending these orders. The State Health Officer has extended the mask requirement until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, January 18th,” said Gov. Doug Burgum.

Since the executive order was first implemented in November, health officials have seen a significant drop in positive COVID-19 cases here in the state.

Burleigh County, prior to the order, was seeing a 14 day rolling average of 15 percent.

“We had that peak on the 20th and then have continued to see a decline. And we’ve actually seen the lowest positivity rate since mid-October,” explained Renae Moch, Director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.

She says the extension of the mask order will continue to drive positive case numbers down.

“Even though we’re seeing a decline we’re not to the point of letting up and we want to continue to make sure that we see our numbers continuing to decrease and this is one way that we can do that,” said Moch.

Hospitals like Sanford Health have already begun to see the effects of the mask mandate that was first put in place.

“With the increased percentage of people wearing masks we see a huge decrease in positivity rate, and soon as we begin to see the decrease in cases. And we’re just now starting to see the decrease in hospitalizations that lag two weeks,” said Dr. Michale LeBeau, the President and CEO of Sanford Health Bismarck.

With plans to roll out vaccines as early as next week, both LeBeau and Moch say that doesn’t mean people should stop wearing masks.

“Until we get to a certain percentage of Americans that have the vaccination, we still run the risk of spreading COVID. Unfortunately, we still have work to do,” explained LeBeau.

Children under the age 5, people with a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, and religious services are all exempt from the order.