Hanover brings back indoor mask mandate

  • A man who declined to give his name passes by a sign in Hanover, N.H., requesting that visitors wear face masks, Monday, July 27, 2020. The town will hold a public hearing on a mask ordinance next week. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2021 9:35:29 PM
Modified: 8/5/2021 6:26:44 PM

HANOVER — Town officials decided Wednesday night to implement an indoor mask mandate in response to a “significant uptick” in coronavirus cases reported at Dartmouth College this week.

The Selectboard voted unanimously during an emergency meeting to reinstate part of its mask ordinance, which was suspended in June. It took effect immediately.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said the rules don’t apply to outdoor spaces. The town, she added, also isn’t restricting the size of gatherings or requiring permits like it did during the height of the pandemic last year.

“(We) just want to be cautious relative to indoor exposures,” Griffin said in an email. “With luck, we may be able to pause this once again once the delta variant runs its course, which folks are hoping will be the end of August or mid-September.”

However, at least one member of the Selectboard appeared skeptical about again mandating masks.

“I’m not sure what public policy should be relative to continuing to try to protect the unvaccinated,” Chairman Peter Christie said. “They’ve made that choice, and that was their decision.”

Griffin said the renewed mask mandate followed test results from Dartmouth College where, she said, nine new COVID-19 cases were reported in a 24-hour period this week, some of whom may have been vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, the college’s COVID-19 dashboard was reporting 10 active cases — three students and seven faculty and staff.

Out of 975 coronavirus tests administered this week, eight were positive, resulting in a positive rate of 0.82%

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reported 14 active cases in Hanover as of Wednesday, among highest in the Upper Valley. Canaan has eight active cases, while Claremont has five.

Dartmouth students who are not fully vaccinated are tested for COVID-19 twice weekly, as are faculty and staff who come to campus and are not fully vaccinated yet.

“Dartmouth is concerned by the rise in cases among fully vaccinated members of our community, and we are aware that the town of Hanover is considering an indoor mask mandate,” Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email Wednesday evening.

“We are discussing what steps we may want to take and will make an announcement soon,” she added.

The school’s current masking policy requires masks be worn when students and employees are visiting health care settings such as Dartmouth College Health Service, if they’re experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms or are indoors while not fully vaccinated.

“The good news is that, in northern New England, the rate of vaccination is higher than in many parts of the country, and we’re still blessed with a little bit of a lower (infection) rate,” said Selectboard Vice Chairman Athos Rassias. “But that can change very quickly and can spread very quickly, as we all know.”

About 93% of the Dartmouth community is fully vaccinated, while 67.5% of Hanover residents are fully vaccinated.

The Selectboard’s decision to mandate masks indoors follows a recent move by the Hanover Co-op to also require masks inside its stores.

The Co-op has two stores in Hanover along with its flagship store in Lebanon and a fourth market in White River Junction. It also runs car repair shops in Hanover and Norwich.

It announced earlier this week that customers will be required to wear face coverings starting Aug. 9 because of “serious upticks in the incidence of the delta variant.”

The highly contagious variant of the virus is known to cause more serious illness than previously dominant variants and is being attributed to increasing case numbers and hospitalizations across the country.

Hanover’s mask ordinance requires face coverings be worn in several zoning districts, which run roughly from the Ledyard Bridge to the west to Etna Village in the east, and the Lebanon-Hanover line in the south up to Wilson’s Landing on Route 10 in the north.

Those refusing to follow the regulations could be issued an initial fine of $100, $200 for the second and $500 for further repeat violations.

Hanover was among the last municipalities in New Hampshire to lift its mask mandate in early June, with Lebanon and Enfield following suit shortly after.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.


This story has been updated to reflect testing requirements for people at Dartmouth who are not full vaccinated.

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