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As N.H. Sets Record For COVID-19 Cases, Sununu Issues New Mask Mandate

Josh Rogers | NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu imposed a statewide mask mandate effective Friday, the state’s most sweeping response to the coronavirus pandemic in months. The policy came the same day that New Hampshire health officials announced a record for new daily COVID-19 infections in the state.

The mandate requires everyone over the age of five to wear a mask in all indoor and outdoor public spaces when they cannot stay six feet apart from others. New Hampshire had been the only state in New England without a mask mandate and, for months, Sununu had argued that circumstances didn't warrant such a policy here. But at a press conference Friday, Sununu said surging cases mean additional steps are needed to curb what he termed the "substantial spread" of the coronavirus across the state.

"The data is clear,” Sununu said. “If folks don't want to look at the data, I can't force them to listen to reason, but it is clear. It isn't speculation; it isn't conjecture; it isn't a hoax.”

The new mandate includes no penalties for noncompliance.

Health officials announced 529 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Currently 98 people are hospitalized in the state from the illness.  That's double the number of hospitalizations from two weeks ago.  Officials also announced five new outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the state, located in Fremont, Manchester, Hampton, Bedford and Rochester.  

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Two more coronavirus deaths were also announced Friday, both associated with long term care facilities, which have borne the brunt of COVID-19 fatalities in New Hampshire since the start of the pandemic.  Friday’s announcement brings the total number of coronavirus death in the state so far to 506.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said New Hampshire’s hospitals currently have the capacity for more COVID-19 patients, but that could change very quickly.

"If we doubled our hospital capacity in two weeks, if we double again in another two weeks, that's going to start to strain us."

Shibinette said the new mask mandate should help slow the rise in hospitalizations from coronavirus.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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