New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday announced his first statewide mask mandate amid the coronavirus pandemic, noting “this is not a decision that came lightly.”
Effective Friday, masks will be required at all indoor public spaces, as well as outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained, the governor said.
“People who have tuned into these press conferences for the last eight months know how seriously we have encouraged mask wearing,” he said. “But today we are elevating that message even further given the seriousness of this crisis.”
Regarding masks, Sununu said, “they work, they help prevent the spread of COVID, and people should wear them.”
“We have said all along that a mask mandate was always on the table, and that we would let data drive our decisions,” he said.
According to tallies from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the state has seen 15,749 COVID-19 cases to date, amounting to 504 deaths.
As of Wednesday, the state reported 91 current hospitalizations for COVID-19. There are said to be 6,375 more people being monitored for the virus statewide.
“Our hospitalization rate is increasing,” Sununu said. “We have always said that we cannot let our health care system get overrun, and instituting this mandate will help.”
Sununu also pointed to “substantial community transmission throughout our entire state,” while announcing the mask mandate.
“Early on, the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on the southern counties while the northern, more rural counties had less prevalence of COVID,” he said.
But, “As we all know, COVID does not stop at any one town’s borders. With substantial community spread across the entire state – including in Coos County – where the city of Berlin just instituted a mask mandate of their own, we are making this decision at a statewide level.”
COVID-19 outbreaks continue to be a problem at long-term care facilities. While masks have been mandated there since the beginning of the pandemic, Sununu expressed great concern with community transmission bringing the virus into these types of facilities at an alarming rate.
Sununu addressed Granite Staters who may be opposed to his latest pandemic protocol.
He explained the mandate “will allow us to keep our economy open and helps ensure our health care system has the capacity and workforce it needs in the coming weeks.”
“No one wants a shutdown,” he said. “No one wants to go back to where we were in March, April, and May.”
An intent of the mask mandate is to stop people who are asymptomatic from spreading COVD-19 when they don’t wear a mask into a store or other public place.
“You risk shutting down that business for weeks,” Sununu said. “You risk unknowingly infecting someone with severe health issues or someone who works in a longterm care facility."