CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday a mask mandate for the entire state of New Hampshire, saying he hoped it would limit the number of hospitalizations and other serious illnesses coming from this second surge of COVID-19 cases in the state.
The mandate will begin tomorrow and will expire next Jan. 15 unless Sununu extends it.
Sununu said the state order does not include any fines for those who violate the order, though the state has the current authority to impose fines or issue warning letters ensure private businesses are in compliance with any COVID-19 restrictions. The terms of all locally-adopted mask mandates will still apply, the governor said.
The move comes as the state announced 529 new cases of novel coronavirus, the highest for a single day since the global pandemic hit.
State officials announced nearly 100 were in the hospital with the virus, twice the number two weeks ago.
There were two new deaths reported, bringing that total to 506 since the virus began.
Sununu said he made the decision after a variety of factors revealed the scope of this surge including the substantial community transmission in all 10 counties, the rising rate of tests being positive, the number of new outbreaks in nursing homes and the chronic staff shortages facing health care providers.
For months, Sununu had predicted the fall would bring a rise in cases, but he stressed the recent uptick in the past few weeks was alarming and it called for this action.
“It’s a lot steeper, it’s a lot deeper, it’s a lot bigger than anybody had anticipated.” Sununu said at his weekly briefing on the virus.
The mask mandate applies to all indoor and outdoor spaces when the public cannot socially distance.
The mandate does not apply to children under age 5.
“Today we are really elevating the massage given the seriousness of the crisis and given the surge in cases and the number of hospitalizations,” Sununu said.