Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma explains ‘no-penalty’ mandate, says he can enforce penalties under emergency ordinance

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A visitor wearing a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 passes a sign requiring masks, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in San Antonio. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared masks or face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state as local officials across the state say their hospitals are becoming increasingly stretched and are in danger of becoming overrun as cases of the coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Nearly a week after a group of doctors sent a letter to Governor Burgum urging him to make masks mandatory, two mayors in the state have made the decision to do so for their cities, but not with many consequences.

Some council members were for it.
“I would like to make the motion to ask the mayor to create a mayoral mask mandate modeled after Fargo,” said Alderwoman Carrie Evans.

Others weren’t.
“We’re in a community of a glass half empty. We’re living in fear,” added Alderman Tom Ross.

But with increasing community spread, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19, the council passed a citywide mask mandate 5-2, with Aldermen Paul Pitner and Ross voting against.

“I don’t know what to think. Everyone is confused,” said Sharon Huizenga, a Minot resident.

And she isn’t the only one. One of the biggest lingering questions about the new rule is this: how does it help stop the spread if it’s not being enforced to its full potential?

“I know the issue is that a mandate without enforcement is difficult for some people to accept, but I think it is the next step. We have to be able to do something to slow the spread,” said Mayor Shaun Sipma.

Sipma says it’s worked elsewhere. He says Minot Public Schools has seen numbers drop dramatically thanks to mask requirements.

So why not enforce a mandate in the city with penalties? Sipma says it comes down to manpower.

“Our police officers now are being taxed just on the regular day to day activities,” he said. “They go on calls on a very regular basis, if not continually. Then the question is do we have to bring more people in for enforcement.”

The mayor says he does have the power to enforce a penalty for those who don’t follow the mandate.

That power comes from an emergency ordinance that gives the mayor more executive power in times of crisis. But he hopes it doesn’t get to the point of needing enforcement.

“They have the same concerns that we have. In terms of a confrontation between folks that look at it as an infringement on their freedom and our police force,” added Sipma.

A few people KX News spoke to today, who didn’t want to be on camera, say they still won’t wear masks. Others applauded the council for making the decision.

“I think it’s a wise precaution that we all mask up,” said one resident.

Another added, “If everybody don’t do it, this pandemic is going to be here forever.”

There are some exceptions to the mandate, like when a person is engaging in religious worship. Mayor Sipma says the city can and will make adjustments to the order, as officials continue to monitor day to day coronavirus information in Minot.

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