Hanover to ‘pause’ mask ordinance after Dartmouth commencement

  • Virginia Clerkin wears a mask while walking down South Main Street in Hanover, N.H., where she is the manager of J. Crew, Monday, July 27, 2020. The Town of Hanover will hold a public hearing on a mask ordinance next week. Currently signs throughout the downtown area request the use of face masks. A short time later Dwight Campbell, of West Lebanon, passed by on his way to a meeting with a friend and said he was pleased to see the majority of people on the street wearing masks. “I’m sorry that there’s a particular confusion between notions of personal freedom and simple things that people can do to protect themselves and others,” said Campbell, a retired surgeon, of those that don’t wear face coverings. (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

  • 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: 6/9/2021 9:59:35 PM
Modified: 6/9/2021 9:59:38 PM

HANOVER — Town officials have decided to suspend Hanover’s mask ordinance effective early next week after thousands of expected visitors depart following Dartmouth College’s graduation on Sunday.

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said the mask ordinance will be “paused” but not rescinded “in case we need to re-implement it in the event we see another large outbreak. Fingers crossed we are beyond that.”

The Selectboard voted unanimously on Monday in favor of suspending the ordinance.

Hanover last August imposed the mask ordinance, which requires people to wear masks inside businesses and in heavily trafficked areas, including downtown sidewalks.

Under the suspension to take effect Monday, the day after Dartmouth’s commencement, masking will not be required outdoors but Hanover officials are urging the unvaccinated to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for wearing masks in settings with other people.

Similarly, businesses in Hanover will be urged but not formally required to follow CDC recommendations to mask up unless they know everyone is vaccinated, meaning town officials hope waitstaff and others who serve the public continue to wear masks but are not legally mandating that they do so.

“We think indoor mask-wearing will continue to be important for all, but we are not going to push enforcement,” Griffin said.

“The biggest challenge we have is that some portion of those who are unvaccinated will continue to refuse to mask up simply because they neither believe the science nor do they care about others relative to COVID.”

Town employees will still have to be masked and municipal buildings will still have a formal mask requirement in place, “given that we cannot inquire as to a citizen’s vaccination status nor can we bar entry to those who have chosen not to be vaccinated,” Griffin said via email.

Because of rising vaccination rates, Dartmouth College last week lifted a mask requirement for outdoor spaces on its campus, though masks are still mandatory in college buildings and at large gatherings such as the upcoming commencement.

Given the college’s decision about no longer requiring masks outside on campus, Hanover Selectboard Chairman Peter Christie said it would make sense for the town and Dartmouth to be consistent with their mask policies, according to draft minutes of Monday’s Selectboard meeting. And Selectboard member Nancy Carter said she was in favor of wearing masks to protect youths who are not vaccinated.

Griffin said Hanover officials continue to encourage the use of masks because only about 50% of New Hampshire residents are fully vaccinated, and no children under 12 have gotten the jab yet.

“We owe them the same care that we want others to show for us, so we need to be careful in all settings while we reach much higher vaccination levels,” Griffin said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon has taken steps to roll back its coronavirus restrictions. The City Council voted last week to allow people who are fully vaccinated to go without masks inside some workplaces where staff don’t interact with the public. Masks are also no longer required at the Lebanon Farmers Market.

The nine-member council is expected to next discuss Lebanon’s mask mandate on Wednesday night, June 16.

And officials in Enfield on Monday voted to rescind that town’s mask mandate effective June 18.

News staff writer Tim Camerato contributed to this report. John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.

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