CONCORD — On Thursday, Gov. Chris Sununu announced a mask mandate to stem the number of COVID-19 cases around the state.
The mask mandate goes into effect today.
According to Sununu's latest executive order, anyone over the age of 5 within the state of New Hampshire shall wear mask or cloth face coverings over their noses and mouths any time they are in public spaces, indoors or outdoors, where they are unable to or do not consistently maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from persons outside their own households. The order is to remain in effect until Jan. 15, 2021.
Per the order, "public spaces" includes any part of private or public property that is generally open or accessible to members of the general public.
Public spaces include lobbies, waiting areas, outside plazas or patios, restaurants, retail businesses, streets, sidewalks, parks, beaches, elevators, restrooms, stairways and parking garages.
Sununu's Executive Order 74 goes onto say that, "Nothing in this order shall be construed to prevent municipalities within the State of New Hampshire from enacting their own ordinances related to the wearing of masks or cloth face coverings that contain stricter provisions than those contained within this order."
It also said that the order shall not apply to the following:
a) Educators, students, and staff within K-12 schools.
b) Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask or other face covering.
c) Any person consuming food or drink or sitting at a restaurant or table to eat or drink.
d) Any person engaged in physical strenuous physical activity.
e) Any person giving a religious, political, media, educational, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation or performance for an audience.
f) Any person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and any person while communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing or who has a disability, medical condition, or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a mask or face covering difficult.
g) Any person obtaining or providing a service that requires the temporary removal of a mask or face covering.
h) Any person asked to remove a mask or face covering to verify an identity for lawful purposes.
i) Any public safety worker actively engaged in a public safety role and when a mask or face covering would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities.
COVID-19 cases started rising markedly in October in New Hampshire after a summer lull. In August, there were many days where there were less than 20 positive cases per day. By the end of September, New Hampshire was seeing 30-50 new cases per day, and by the end of October over 100 new cases per day. In November, the case log rose even more sharply. There were 529 new cases in New Hampshire on Thursday, the most in a single day to date. In the last week there were an average 400 cases per day.
Sununu said the number of people in the hospital for COVID-19 have doubled in the past two weeks from about 50 to about 100.
"Wearing a mask is really about keeping friends, family, neighbors, critical workforce members and those they care for safe and allowing our economy to stay open," Sununu said Thursday.
As of Wednesday, according to state data there 11 active cases in Conway and 52 cumulative cases. All 10 New Hampshire counties have "substantial spread." More than 75 percent of New Hampshire municipalities have COVID-19 cases. Sununu said the mask mandate will help cause the numbers to level off.
State Rep. Anita Burroughs (D-Bartlett) had been gearing up to approach Sununu with a mask mandate petition.
Hearing about Sununu's executive order, she said, "That's awesome. I'm really thrilled that he's doing this. My hat is off to the governor."