By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – New Hampshire is the only state in New England and among 16 in the country without a statewide COVID-19 mask mandate and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Monday that he would ask governors to implement them.
That is not getting anywhere with newly re-elected New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.
Sununu maintained Monday as he has since March that he does not support a statewide mask mandate for New Hampshire.
“New Hampshire has managed this crisis well and I have supported local communities in their decision to enact mask mandates, but a one-size-fits-all approach out of Washington is not the answer to combatting this crisis – it’s ensuring that each state has the flexibility to attack this pandemic in a targeted, data-driven way,” Sununu said in an email response to InDepthNH.org.
If the governor is not willing to mandate a mask, he might expect to get a call from Biden in January and if that does not work, Biden may start calling all the governors in states where there is no mandate, according to NBC News and The Hill.
Sununu, a Republican, has supported local control on this issue.
Nashua was the first major city in the state to implement a mandate last spring and the governor supported it, as he did other communities, particularly those with colleges, which preempted fall arrival of students with town ordinances to “mask up” as a means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
COVID-19 has killed 238,000 in the United States, so far, and 489 in New Hampshire as of Sunday.
The AARP has created a list of states that have mandatory mask mandates: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/states-mask-mandates-coronavirus.html. It shows that all New England states, plus New York have mask mandates except New Hampshire.
On Aug. 20, upon accepting the Democratic nomination for president, Biden called for a “national mask mandate,” but has softened the rhetoric now to become a national mask suggestion for governors to enact.
Legal experts said that such a federal mandate could not be supported by law and that it would wind up in the courts and almost certainly be challenged.
On Monday, in announcing his new team to lead the pandemic response, Biden said, “It’s time to end the politicization of basic, responsible public health steps like mask-wearing and social distancing.”
Biden called wearing a mask the “single most effective” tool to halt the spread of a virus.
Sununu, on Thursday during his weekly coronavirus press briefing, said national mandates “make a lot of people very nervous and rightly so,” and that he felt the state by state approach offered “flexibility” that has “driven a lot of success” in controlling the virus.