CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s statewide mask mandate has been lifted, but local ordinances requiring the use of face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus remain in several communities.

Nashua was the first city to enact an ordinance requiring masks in May. The rules remain in place while the city’s board of health develops criteria for removing them, according to the city’s website.

Similar ordinances were enacted in Concord, Portsmouth, Keene and Durham. Concord’s ordinance is set to expire June 1, Durham’s expires June 5 and Portsmouth’s on June 30, though they could be renewed.

“The lifting of the statewide mandate by the Governor does not diminish the importance of wearing a face mask,” said Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig. “The threat to public health from COVID-19 is real.”

New Hampshire was the last state in New England to adopt a statewide mask mandate in November and was the first to lift it. In addition to dropping the mask requirement, the state also will eliminate remaining restrictions on businesses and replace industry-specific rules with universal safety recommendations on May 7.

While infections have risen steadily throughout the spring, Gov. Chris Sununu credited the state’s success in vaccinations for keeping deaths low and hospitalizations at a manageable level. More than 70 percent of residents age 16 and older have either been vaccinated or have scheduled appointments, said Beth Daly, chief of the state Bureau of Infectious Disease Control.

“Everyone is really doing their part to stare down COVID,” said Sununu. “The pandemic is not over, and we’re not declaring victory by any means on any of this, but our successes to date have created opportunity.”

Towns, cities and schools can impose their own mask mandates, he said, as can individual state agencies, departments and other organizations.

“We have truly been in this together since March of 2020, we’ll continue to move forward together in a measured, data-driven way,” he said. “Let’s keep getting our vaccinations and doing what we need to do to keep our communities safe. Together, New Hampshire is definitely on track for a very successful summer and beyond.”

Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, urged Sununu to reconsider his decision, which he called an “unnecessary and potentially devastating deviation in our public health policy.”

“Our state is averaging more new cases each day and more hospitalizations than when the mask mandate first went into effect. As a doctor, I am shocked that in spite of these facts the Governor is now lifting this critical protection against the spread of COVID 19,” he said.

 


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