New Hampshire's New Mask Order, Explained

Everything you need to know about Gov. Chris Sununu's executive order

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New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu this week issued a new executive order that will require people to wear masks at scheduled gatherings of more than 100 people.

It's the first mask mandate issued by Sununu, who has resisted calls to require the use of face coverings to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Here's what to know about the order.

Why now?

The governor said that residents have by and large been following recommendations to wear masks or face coverings when social distancing isn't possible, but with large events coming up in New Hampshire and outbreaks linked to super-spreader events around the country, Sununu said the move made sense.

Images of people ignoring social distancing measures at another major motorcycle gathering, this weekend's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, factored into Sununu's emergency order requiring masks at those large, organized gatherings, he said at a news briefing Tuesday afternoon.

"Sturgis was a real clear warning sign to us. I don't think anyone saw the photos out of Sturgis and thought, 'That looks safe,'" Sununu said.

More than 10,000 NASCAR fans will be welcomed into the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the largest sporting event in New England since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Will this impact Laconia Motorcyle Week?

In short, yes.

The order will be put to the test Aug. 22-30 at the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, which typically attracts thousands of people to the state. It's a smaller version of the Sturgis rally, a 10-day event that began Friday in South Dakota. Organizers there expect about 250,000 visitors from all over the country -- about half the number of previous years but enough for local residents and a few bikers to worry about virus outbreaks.

Laconia Motorcycle Week is set to begin Aug. 22, and the government has set up a working group to plan for it this year.

"We are going to have our enforcement teams out there, whether it's liquor or public safety, we are going to have people in the field and working one-on-one," Sununu said.

"I think the vast majority of folks you're going to see this year ... will likely be from New England," Sununu said, citing data gathered at the Foxwoods Resort Casino 310 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Will there be fines?

Fines, still being developed, will theoretically be given to organizers of events, not individuals. And the order will be enforced by the state.

Sununu also said that the state would be stepping up the enforcement of coronavirus rules at bars and restaurants, where patrons must be seated -- standing and socializing has been linked to super-spreader events, according to the governor, who called the enforcement measures "common-sense."

How about schools?

Schools are not being included in the order, though school assemblies might apply. Sununu said the order would apply to large religious gatherings as well.

On Monday, the school board in New Hampshire's largest city approved remote learning for students entering grades two through 12 for the first quarter of the year.

Manchester's Board of School Committee voted that students in pre-kindergarten through the first grade will be returning to school for two days a week, at the superintendent's recommendation.

Online learning for students in grades two through 12 will be held during regular school hours. Teachers will use video conferencing technology for classes.

The superintendent and health officials will evaluate the situation in October and decide whether to move to a hybrid model. Parents will be given a choice to stay fully remote or switch to hybrid.

NH and COVID-19

New Hampshire's coronavirus metrics remain low.

On Tuesday, there were no new deaths and 13 new positive cases of the novel coronavirus reported, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The number of coronavirus deaths remained at 419.

NBC10 Boston and Associated Press
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