OSSIPEE — Despite concerns from the Register of Deeds, the Carroll County commissioners Wednesday lifted the mask mandate for the county administration building.
The administration building at 95 Water Village Road houses the county attorney’s office, the commissioners' office, deeds office, sheriff's office and other offices such as for human resources and finance.
For about a year, face masks were required at the building due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for a time visitors had to fill out a health questionnaire.
Such screenings are no longer required. On Wednesday, HR Director Chris Heroux told commissioners that a safety committee made up of county staff and officials was to keep the mask mandate for now.
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.
Heroux also told commissioners that he heard Merrimack County ended its mask requirement except for at the nursing home and the jail. Sullivan County also ended its mask requirement at several departments.
After about a half-hour of discussion, Commissioners Matthew Plache (R-Wolfeboro) and Kimberly Tessari (R-Ossipee) made the decision. Commissioners’ chair Terry McCarthy (R-Conway) was absent and Plache was filling in as chair.
Plache said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended the mask mandate in that state on Wednesday.
“We're looking at lifting the mandate in the administration building. Obviously, people are free to wear masks,” he said, while adding that the COVID vaccines are about 97 percent effective.
“I’m not a scientist, the scientists are saying it's OK to lift a requirement,” said Plache. “That seems to be where the science is headed.”
However, Register of Deeds Lisa Scott (R-Sandwich) argued to keep the mandate as she wondered whether county staff would have to monitor whether people are vaccinated or not.
“I’m uncomfortable making the carte blanche, ‘you don't need to wear your mask’ without having that monitoring,” or at such time when everyone has been vaccinated, said Scott. “So, until that time, it just seems prudent to wear the masks.”
Scott said her internet research indicated that New Hampshire is still a high-risk state for COVID-19.
Tessari said in state buildings people may choose to wear a mask or not.
“I think the hope is that if you aren't vaccinated, you're wearing a mask,” said Tessari. “ And if you are vaccinated, you're making the choice about what you want to do.”
Both Tessari and Plache stressed that people who come to the county administration building are still welcome to wear masks.
“What we don't want is squabbling,” said Tessari. “You don't want one department saying you have to wear a mask another saying you don’t.”
Disposable masks and hand sanitizer will continue to be made available at the building.
Prior to the vote, Scott said if the commissioners lifedt the mandate, she would put a sign on the door recommending that people wear masks, telling the sick to go home and reminding people to keep a distance from each other.
Sheriff Dominic Richardi (R-Conway) said he was “neutral” on the question of masks at the administration building. He said masks had been worn in public areas of the sheriff's department but not the offices. He also said the mask mandate at the courthouse in Ossipee will likely end June 7.
“It’s your building, and we'll do whatever you need,” said Richardi.
The other major department head that works at the administration building is County Attorney Michaela Andruzzi (D-Wolfeboro), who declined comment.