North Dakota’s Governor resisted a mask mandate, but in November with rising numbers Doug Burgum changed his mind. Medical experts in North Dakota convinced him that the mandate was needed. When it comes to infections, both North Dakota and South Dakota appear to be trending in the right direction.

North Dakota’s statewide mask mandate was extended on December 9th. Research shows North Dakota has gone from first in the nation with per capita virus infections, to 10th.

North Dakota Health Department State Epidemiologist Grace Njau says there are many factors that could contribute to North Dakota’s falling numbers.

“I think we are looking at probably like the lowest number of cases we’ve seen in quite a while, but the one thing I will say is there is very much a difference between mask mandates and masks and what we’re seeing I believe is very much a combination of multiple factors,” said Njau.

Njau believes when hospitals announced they were nearing capacity, it was a wake up call for people to mask up and social distance themselves. She says as a scientist she is convinced wearing masks saves lives and stops the spread of this virus.

Although North Dakota appears to be doing better than South Dakota, figures showcases are dropping in both states.

During today’s health department briefing in Pierre, we asked South Dakota’s Secretary of Health about the effectiveness of masks. Kim Malsam-Rysdom encouraged people getting together for the holidays to follow social distancing guidelines and practice good hygiene.

“Masks do matter and we ask people to wear masks especially when they can’t exercise those other mitigation strategies,” said Malsam-Rysdom.

Unlike North Dakota’s Governor, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has resisted a mask mandate. Earlier this week she retweeted a data specialist who says he once worked for Mitt Romney. His tabulations involving all 50 states show mask mandates don’t slow the spread of COVID-19. In fact, his data appears to show mask mandates may increase the number of cases. Noem has been a strong supporter of personal freedoms and has said South Dakota will not have a mask mandate.