Mask ordinance proposal could come to Manchester next month

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Alderman Tony Sapienza (Ward 5) talks to Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas on Aug. 4, 2020. Screenshot/MPTV

MANCHESTER, NH – The Queen City does not have a mask ordinance yet, but it could have one soon.

On Tuesday night, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen heard a COVID-19 pandemic update from Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas that alluded to a potential mask ordinance proposal aimed for next month.

Thomas told the board she did not have a proposed ordinance to recommend to the board right now due to logistics surrounding compliance, stating that she felt it would be unfair for police officers to hand out tickets for non-compliance. Instead, she said she is looking for help from the state in regard to compliance officers who could issue tickets, which would only be offered toward people who are indoors and refuse to comply with the ordinance.

Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large) asked Thomas why people should wear masks given the confusion regarding whether their main purpose is to prevent catching COVID-19 or giving it to someone else. Thomas replied that while cloth masks may prevent giving the disease to others, there are various levels of masks and higher quality masks can both protect the wearer and others around the wearer.

Levasseur also urged greater oversight over homeless residents camping in public areas along Canal Street, believing that not ticketing those people while ticketing others would construe a double standard.

Alderman Keith Hirschmann (Ward 12) opposed the idea of an ordinance, stating that he wears one when around people he doesn’t know, but the matter should be enforced through personal responsibility. He referenced the recent opening of three public water-related recreation areas and the fact that there are only 12 current COVID-19 cases in Manchester’s two public hospitals as proof the pandemic is under control in Manchester.

However, Thomas indicated that while New Hampshire is doing better than some other states, vigilance is still needed.

“I wish everybody had that standard of personal responsibility in a community, but not everybody does,” says Thomas.

Hirschmann also stated that the water-related recreation areas were re-opened due to political pressure, with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig replying that they were opened after the Aldermen approved money for staffing as well as data from the Emergency Operations Center indicating that it was safe to re-open those facilities.

Thomas also informed the board of a difference between an “active” case of COVID-19 (someone who has tested positive) and a “passive” case (someone who has been in proximity of someone who has tested positive within the past 14 days), also indicating that she believes the Manchester School District will support a hybrid-style system for returning to school next week. However, she added that parents need to know their own comfort-level regarding sending their children to school and that they should be confident given the amount of due diligence school officials have put into the decision.

Keith Hirschmann on Aug. 4, 2020. Screenshot/MPTV

Later in the meeting, further conflict ensued between Hirschmann and Craig when Hirschmann asked why a sidewalk request for 440 River Road was being tabled. In the agenda, 400 River Road was listed as a commercial property. Meanwhile, 26 Liberty St., an investment property, was among several properties not tabled that would receive approval for sidewalk requests this evening.

Craig replied that her husband owns 26 Liberty St., a three-family residential home used as an investment, calling the question “politics at its best,” which Hirschmann denied. According to city staff, the difference between 26 Liberty St. and 440 River Road came due to size, with 440 River Road including several dozen separate buildings.

About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.