Torn on the city’s new mandate to wear face masks at Nashua businesses, some residents are praising the requirement while others say it is an overreach.
With a vote of 10-3, the Nashua Board of Aldermen approved the mandate on Thursday after the city’s Board of Health had recommended the action to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Face coverings are now required when customers over the age of 10 visit stores, restaurants and other business establishments in the Gate City. The ordinance, if violated, carries a fine of up to $1,000, which is decided by the court.
Willie Reed of Nashua said an attempt by the governing body to dictate what he must wear in public is a gross violation of his rights. Reed said businesses already have the ability to enforce mask wearing if they desire, stressing there is no need for government interference.
“People who are concerned for their health and place that concern above other considerations should absolutely 100 percent be free to wear a mask, and I support their right to do so. However, those of us who have deemed not wearing a mask an acceptable risk should under no circumstances be required to take precautions we deem unnecessary for our own safety,” said Reed.
Aldermen received numerous emails from citizens about the mask mandate, with about half in favor and half in opposition. Several city officials said that because Nashua is a border city, it must be extra vigilant because of the high number of cases in Massachusetts.
“Our proximity to Massachusetts makes this vital to our safety,” agreed Susan Merrigan of Nashua. “I have already noticed an increase in the number of cars from across the border in just the last week.”
Since there is still so much that is not known about COVID-19, every precaution available should be taken, including masks, according to Merrigan.
The ordinance does not require children under 10 to wear a face covering, and states that parents should make their own judgments. Although masks must be worn while entering restaurants, they may be removed once diners sit at a table, according to the regulation.
In addition, a face covering is not required for anyone who can show that a medical professional has advised that wearing a face covering may pose a risk because of a health reason.
“The longer you perpetrate this injustice on the population, the more likely you will find yourself — Republican or Democrat — voted out of office,” Andy Cooper of Nashua wrote in a letter to the Board of Aldermen.
Cooper said the number of COVID-19 cases and the prevalence of severe cases does not justify the draconian measures being enforced.
Jeff Locke of Nashua said that if the city wants to mandate the use of face masks, it should have been placed on the ballot for a vote.
“There is not 100 percent proof that they are successful. It needs to be an option for citizens to decide,” Locke said of the face coverings.
Mary Ellen Carter-Gilson of Nashua disagreed, saying individuals can help flatten the curve and reduce the number of infections by wearing masks in public.
“Wearing a couple of layers of cloth over your mouth and nose to protect other people isn’t trampling freedom. It isn’t too high a price to pay,” she said.
Evelyn Danforth of Nashua said she is worried because her mother, another Nashua resident, is undergoing chemotherapy and the two of them are doing their best to avoid the disease.
She supports the face mask mandate since individuals can be carriers of the illness without realizing it. She suggested that digital signs be placed on the highway to inform everyone of the regulation, specifically near the Massachusetts border upon entering the city.