Dickinson Public Schools announced Tuesday, in a letter addressed to family and friends, that all students and staff would be required to wear a face covering at all times, excluding lunch. The new change affecting all students at each of the DPS schools was implemented, effective immediately.

The move by DPS comes by mandate from Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Office of the Governor.

"On Friday, Governor Burgum issued Executive Order 2020-43, requiring that face coverings be worn in all indoor public spaces regardless of social distancing," Dr. Shon Hocker, superintendent of DPS, said in a release. "Starting today, students and staff will be required to wear face coverings at all times, excluding lunch when students are eating. We have been fortunate in the past to allow students the opportunity to remove their masks when properly social distancing; however, the current mandate no longer allows this practice and requires masks be worn at all times in public buildings."

According to Hocker, expectations are to resume the practice of allowing students to remove masks while social distancing when the mandate expires. Additionally, DPS has notified principals to work with their respective staff to identify times when students may take a "mask break."

"We will provide mask breaks for students throughout the day," Hocker said in the release. "I understand that this may be frustrating news to some of you, but I continue to ask for your grace during this time. We will continue to update you as we get information in the future."

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The mandate announcement comes following a rapid spread of the disease over the summer and continuing rise through the fall. As of Saturday, there were only 18 free Intensive Care Unit beds and 178 non-ICU beds in hospitals throughout the state.