Portsmouth and Durham consider ending mask warrants

Mask warrants appear to be running their course in New Hampshire.

Councilors for Portsmouth and Durham will next week consider proposals to reduce or completely cancel mask warrants in those communities.

The proposals come amid a steady decline in Covid-19 cases across the region and state as more people get vaccinated and receive new guidance from the federal government.

Officials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have suggested it is safe for fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in public.

The proposal under consideration in Portsmouth would eliminate the requirement for interior and exterior masks which has been in place for much of last year. Companies would have the option of continuing to require the wearing of masks on their premises.

“It’s time for us to comply with CDC guidelines,” Mayor Rick Becksted said in an interview, noting that Portsmouth is one of the last communities in New Hampshire to require face coverings in all settings. “There are recommendations and people should have a choice. “

It is not yet clear how the council will come up with the issue of masks. Becksted expects strong support for removing the mandate in its entirety, but expects a healthy debate on a compromise proposal to keep the domestic rule in place until June.

The city’s health official and several reopening task forces established by the mayor are supporting a compromise that would keep the mandate in place until June for interior spaces only.

Portsmouth City Council held a first debate on Tuesday evening on the new draft mask ordinance.

Councilor Cliff Lazenby is open to such a compromise. He said the additional three weeks would give more residents a chance to be fully immunized, especially 12 to 15-year-olds who were cleared to receive the Pfizer vaccine more recently.

Teens who are older in this age group, Lazenby said, will likely be working downtown this summer.

“I can see why it makes sense to consider this,” Lazenby said in an interview. “We would have fewer people exposed and more people vaccinated by the end of June.”

Renters of the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth said its members had different views on the masks’ mandates.

Some business owners are tired of the battle at the door and the abuse of their staff members to enforce the city ordinance, while other owners are concerned about the health of their unvaccinated staff. said Ben VanCamp, chief associate and chamber president.

“Both of these positions have a lot of merit,” VanCamp said in an email. The Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Arts and Nonprofits and the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee for Portsmouth 2021 reopen have urged council to maintain indoor mask mandate until the end June while eliminating the mandate for outdoor masks now. The Chamber Collaborative supports this position as it enables a comfortable environment for visitors to our community and assists business owners in their efforts to protect their staff.

What’s going on in Durham, where many UNH students have returned home for the summer, while many who live off campus are still in town?

Durham, meanwhile, will debate ending the emergency ordinance which includes the use of masks in municipal buildings. City councilors last month decided to eliminate the exterior mask requirement and suggest, rather than require, interior masks.

The current mask rule in Durham will remain in effect until June 30 without council action.

“UNH is largely postponed for the summer, the number of cases is now low in Durham and falls in the Seacoast area, and the CDC has indicated that those who have been fully vaccinated over 14 days have strong immunity. against the virus, ”Durham City Administrator Todd Selig said.

Manchester and Nashua, the state’s largest cities, recently lifted mask requirements.

Concord’s mask rule expired on June 1.

See striking photos of the tourism industry during COVID-19

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