The New Hampshire Attorney General's office has released new recommendations for grocery stores and retailers on encouraging mask wearing among customers, after some businesses reported employees were uncomfortable enforcing state guidance.
Gov. Chris Sununu enacted a statewide mask ordinance in November, as a way of fighting the spread of COVID-19, but that order didn't specify explicit consequences for those who refused to wear one. Earlier guidance required all staff and customers in retail environments to wear a mask.
Now, at least when it comes to grocery and retail stores, the New Hampshire Department of Justice recommends calling local law enforcement if a customer refuses to wear a mask without a reason listed as an exception in the emergency order.
"As soon as possible, preferably before your business or organization has an issue with a customer who simply refuses to wear a mask, contact your local law enforcement department to have a discussion about establishing a plan for how to deal with such a customer," the guidance states.
Businesses are also advised to hang signs on their doors stating that masks are required; provide masks and hand sanitizer at each door; and establish a plan should someone refuse to comply with mask guidance.
John Dumais of the New Hampshire Grocer's Association said, in the past, stores were responsible for enforcing mask guidelines, and local law enforcement was reluctant to step in.
He said the new recommendation takes some weight off employees who have sometimes had to deal with aggressive confrontations from customers.
"We have a lot of young [employees]," Dumais said. "Can you imagine if a young person was standing in front of the store and saying, 'I'm sorry, you can't enter the store without a mask on,' and someone tried to punch you...That's just not what we want to see happening to our employees."