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Bismarck City Commission holds special meeting after receiving letter asking for mask mandate in schools

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker, Burleigh County is at a high transmission level for COVID-19 cases.

It’s the rise in cases that motivated a group of Bismarck parents and community members to request that Bismarck leaders step up.

Bismarck’s City Commission, which also serves as the city’s Board of Health, began the meeting with a COVID update from the Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Director.

According to Renae Moch, Burleigh County has 741 active cases.

She added they are anticipating the workload will only continue to grow as they prepare for approval of vaccines for kids and boosters.

“We may have to make some adjustments to some of the clinics’ services we have, schedule appointments a little further out. And health maintenance, looking at the home health visits going to be stretched out to two weeks instead of one. Similar things to what we had to do before just to get through that busy period,” said Moch.

It’s for this very reason that a group of locals submitted a letter to the board.

In it, they request that the commission step in and have the Bismarck Public School District require and enforce mask-wearing on its school buses as well as in buildings.

But the city attorney says legally that isn’t possible since there is no state of emergency enacted.

“Especially since several of their schools aren’t even within the jurisdiction of the city of Bismarck. We have no authority over Lincoln or Menoken. All those places that are outside the city,” said Janelle Combs.

After hearing their options, Commissioner Greg Zenker made a motion to deny the request, citing it to be disrespectful.

“We cannot step out of our lane and dictate what the public schools have done. So I will make a motion based on the act that we do not have the authority to approve this to deny this request,” said Zenker.

“And for us to go into that lane, I think the school district has taken a look. They are doing the job they were elected for and how to educate those students,” said Commissioner Steve Marquardt.

Based on the risk factor, Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health has provided CDC recommendations to the school district.

The community group released another letter after the meeting thanking the Board of Health for clarifying to the School Board that it is their role and not that of the cities.

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