CONWAY — While the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released new guidelines, saying fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in public places, the state of New Hampshire continues to recommend mask-wearing, and many local businesses and organizations still require them.
Meanwhile, a number of national chains, including Walmart and CVS, which have stores in Conway, dropped their mask requirement for those who are vaccinated.
But some people worry that loosening restrictions will make it harder for businesses and non-profits to enforce mask requirements, since, short of a vaccine passport, it’s impossible to know who is or is not vaccinated.
Andrea Masters, director of the Pope Memorial Library in North Conway, said she is concerned that people will now expect to be able to use library facilities without wearing a mask and that will put her staff in a difficult position.
Neither the Pope library nor the Conway Public Library have dropped their mask requirement.
In Gov. Chris Sununu’s Tuesday press conference Tuesday, Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, said although the mandate has ended, the state continues to recommend mask wearing.
“We continue to recommend people vaccinated, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, if they’re going to be in indoor environments where other people are around who are unvaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown, if it’s a public location, everybody should continue to be wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing,” he said.
He encouraged anyone who has not gotten a vaccination to do so and said vaccinations along with keeping masking and other mitigation methods in place for the time being will speed the end of the pandemic.
Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Janice Crawford said Tuesday that she had not heard many comments from local business people about the change in CDC guidance.
But, she said, “I still put my mask on to go into Walmart, and I’m vaccinated. What does it hurt?”
Health-care facilities like Memorial Hospital still require masks and also screen people for signs of COVID-19 when they enter the facilities.
Asked if it’s time to do away with masks, Andrea Murphy, infection prevention nurse coordinator at Memorial, said, “If everything were equal, I think it would be great. The point of vaccinations is to return us to a degree of normalcy.”
But, she said, “We probably have a good 55-70 percent of adults not vaccinated yet.”
A fully vaccinated person has had either two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and is at least 14 days out from having their final shot.
While people are no doubt ready to lose the mask as soon as they feel safe to do so, Murphy, a registered nurse who is certified in infection control, noted the medical field has learned a lot about the effectiveness of infection control measures, and many may want to continue wearings masks for some time.
“I think a lot of people were very excited not to get a cold in the past year,” said Murphy, “It shows how much those mitigation measures did in preventing those other viruses and keeping us healthy.”
While she is fully vaccinated, Murphy said she will continue to wear a mask in stores and other public places.
“If I went to Fenway Park, I would wear a mask. If I went for a walk in Schouler Park, no — unless it was the Fourth of July,” she said.
“This is where each individual gets to make their own decision,” she said, stressing, “We don’t have to argue with someone about that decision. I want people to be kind and tolerant and not make assumptions” about whether other people have gotten the vaccine.