MANCHESTER, NH – As Manchester considers a mask mandate, Nashua is now revisiting its ordinance to provide some clarification.
While some people are already voluntarily donning face masks when out and about, this practice could soon become a requirement in the state’s largest city. Manchester public health officials are currently looking into legislation that would require people to mask up, but only in certain indoor environments.
Manchester Public Health Director Anna Thomas said in an email Friday that the Board of Health voted on July 27 in favor of the Health Department to craft a strategy and proposed ordinance to bring in front of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) for consideration of mandating masks in certain indoor environments.
Officials are now in the process of developing a plan which still needs Board of Health approval before being sent to the Board of Aldermen for consideration.
“We are hoping to present this at the September 1 BMA meeting,” Thomas stated via email. “Our goal is to be evidence-based, thoughtful, realistic and impactful in the plan’s design with education first and enforcement as a last resort.”
Other municipalities in the state have also passed mask mandates such as Durham, Hanover and Keene for example. Nashua, the state’s second-largest city, has also implemented a mask mandate which members of the Board of Aldermen (BOA) passed back in May. Since enacting this mask ordinance, officials in Nashua have found that the level of compliance has increased.
“Most businesses, most people are definitely complying,” Mayor Jim Donchess said. “The level of compliance has definitely gone up over the last couple of months but, there’s still — here and there – there’s still complaints about places where masks are not being worn.”
Now, while other cities and towns around the state are considering similar legislation, Nashua is revisiting its mask ordinance to make some slight changes. Donchess added that these amendments to the ordinance are to try to expand the custom of mask-wearing even further.
Donchess said that these amendments, which are included in Ordinance 20-029, have been referred to an aldermanic committee and to the Board of Health. What members of the BOA will ultimately receive is a recommendation from both the Board of Health and a recommendation from that committee before voting on it. These changes could come back to the BOA for a vote as soon as sometime in September.
Nonetheless, Donchess believes that there is definite support among members of the BOA to make these changes. In summarizing these amendments, Donchess said it clarifies that people who are in a gym and who are actually exercising are not required to wear a mask while exercising, adding that people should still wear a mask while going in and out of the facility.
The other clarification is similar with respect to restaurants. Whether indoors or outdoors, Donchess said the ordinance does not require the wearing of a mask while a person is eating or drinking but, when going in and out of the establishment people should still wear a mask.
Additionally, the ordinance also clarifies that an individual receiving personal care services, such as a hair cut, may remove their face mask during any limited period which the mask interferes with performing such service.
“The other change is that it imposes the obligation on the business owner to serve only people with masks,” Donchess said. “So, there’s an obligation to help with the enforcement of the mask ordinance by requiring customers to be wearing a mask.”
In any event, Bobbie Bagley, the director of Nashua’s Division of Public Health and Community Services said that not just in Nashua, but across the state, officials are starting to see the percentage of positive cases going down.
However, while compliance has increased, there are still those individuals who are not going to wear a mask, ordinance or no ordinance. This has resulted in over 100 complaints to the Nashua Police Department.
“One of the things that we do with our mask ordinance is that we do a lot of our enforcement through education,” Bagley said.
Nashua Police Chief Michael Carignan said that the department is working hard to do more education, reminding people that there is an ordinance and that people need to adhere to it. As of Thursday, the department has received a total of 102 calls for mask violations. Of those calls, only one citation for a mask ordinance violation has been issued.
In that instance, Carignan explained that there was an incident involving an individual wearing a mask who assaulted another individual who was not wearing a mask. Carignan said the individual who had assaulted that person was arrested for assault and that the other who was not wearing a mask was cited for a city ordinance violation.
“It’s a tough time, COVID is really difficult for everybody to be dealing with so we’re trying to be mindful of that and really try to work with people,” Carignan said.