By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
PLYMOUTH – A proposed mask ordinance in Plymouth was debated Monday night in a public hearing before its selectboard.
More than 75 people attended the virtual event with Plymouth State University President Donald Birx supporting the measure.
Birx said the measure is an attempt to set the tone for the 4,000 incoming students and an attempt to protect the 5,000 citizens from COVID-19, a respiratory virus that has killed 145,727 residents of the United States so far, as of Sunday, according to the World Health Organization.
His sister is Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Task Force on the Coronavirus. Others said the ordinance was an afront to liberty and was unenforceable.
Chris Sanborn, a 23-year resident said he pays $10,000 a year to be a resident of the town and does not see any point in the measure.
He said the town has undergone waves of out-of-state visitors from Memorial Day on and the town has suffered no outbreaks.
Sanborn then asked how the town would enforce any ordinance.
Patrice Scott said she wears a mask but does not believe in government requiring a mask. She said she does not think college kids would be following an ordinance.
Dr. Viking Hedberg, a resident and pediatrician now working at Concord Hospital, said he supported the measure but was concerned about requiring landscapers to wear masks and said that was a very low risk. With some clarification on that, he said he would support the measure.
Turnaround time on testing is a concern, now nine days, which is essentially worthless, he said.
The college has a 48- to 72-hour turnaround time guarantee with a contractor which will be three tests and done before the students get here, college officials said.
Daily test results will be offered on the PSU website, Hedberg was told.
“I think it is critically valuable,” Hedberg said.
Karen McLeod, a 41-year resident and a teacher at the elementary school, said the schools want children, staff, and residents to “mask up.” She supported the measure.
Gov. Chris Sununu has refused to impose a mask requirement for the state but the state is now surrounded by all other New England states that have imposed such a requirement.
The select board will vote on the matter Aug. 10 ahead of the influx of students, and are among other communities, including Durham, Keene, and Portsmouth considering such ordinances. Nashua passed such an ordinance several months ago and an attempt to seek a preliminary injunction in court failed.
Under the proposed Plymouth provisions, “employees of all business shall wear a face covering over their mouth and nose when interacting with the public and whenever they are within six feet of a co-worker or customer.”
People entering a business including outdoor restaurants would have to wear the same face coverings. The ordinance exempts children age 10 and under.
The virus has killed 409 residents of the state and sickened 6,441.