New Hampshire

Mask Mandate Takes Effect in New Hampshire, the ‘Live Free or Die' State

Some people say the new order, which comes amid rising coronavirus levels, is government overreach, which the state has long bristled against

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An executive order requiring people in New Hampshire to wear masks when they can't social distance took effect Friday.

Lasting through Jan. 15, the order requires anyone over five years old to wear a mask or face covering when they are in public, whether indoors or outdoors, and can't keep at least six feet away from people they don't live with.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced the mandate, made by executive order, during a Thursday press conference.

Among the exceptions to the mask mandate are institutions, like restaurants and schools, where there are already mask-wearing rules in place.

Under Gov. Chris Sununu's executive order, in effect through Jan. 15, anyone over 5 years old will have to wear a mask or face covering whenever they're in public, whether indoors or outdoors, and can't keep at least 6 feet away from people they don't live with.

In the “Live Free or Die” state, some people say the mandate is government overreach.

In a tweet, Republican state Rep. Keith Ammon said he’d attend a Friday party meeting without a mask, writing, “try to stop me.”

Longtime Manchester resident David Hargreaves shared Ammon's frustration: “Because now, it’s not a ‘Live Free or Die’ state.”

Some argue there’s irony in a mask mandate for the Granite State, where there are no seatbelt laws or helmet requirements.

“I feel like we should have the freedom to decide,” said Manchester resident Irina Kostenko.

But others say wearing a mask is about the greater good, unlike wearing a seatbelt.

“If you want to get hurt in your car, that’s on you,” said Hunter Ulbin of Manchester. “But we need to protect everyone, and this is to protect everyone.”

Sununu did not specify about any fines for violating the mandate, saying authorities are focused on educating the public.

The decision "did not come lightly. Many factors were clearly taken into consideration," Sununu said. Among those factors were coronavirus metrics, which have been steadily increasing but which were "popping this past week."

More than 15,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in New Hampshire since the start of the pandemic. Two new deaths were announced Thursday, bringing the total to 506.

The state saw a record number of new coronavirus cases, 529, on Thursday. There were an average of 400 infections being detected per day over the last week, more than twice what the metric was showing two weeks ago, State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said.

The number of people in New Hampshire hospitals has roughly doubled as well, to 98. Sununu noted that there is still hospital capacity but Thursday's announcement is meant to prevent an overload on the health care system.

As New Hampshire's coronavirus case count reaches a new height, people will now be required to wear masks in New Hampshire.

Sununu has long advocated for mask wearing, but it hasn't been required. However, he said he felt the order was in citizens' best interest, with New Hampshire's coronavirus tests returning positive at higher rates, the virus now detected in all 10 counties and outbreaks at 11 long-term care facilities.

"It works, the data shows that. It has been proven," Sununu said of masks.

NBC/Associated Press
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