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Lebanon restores indoor mask requirement

  • Maeve McCrory, of Wilder, Vt., left, was promised a shopping trip to Jewelia at the Powerhouse Mall for her 16th birthday in mid-April and was finally able to make the trip to the West Lebanon, N.H., store, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Jewelia owner Michelle Ryerson, right, shows McCrory some of the jewelry available. Ryerson said she started stocking masks with a variety of prints and they have become a top-selling item. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Beth Ann Finlay, of Chelsea, Vt., checks the fit of a life vest for her dog, Valley, whom she takes paddleboarding and kayaking, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in West Lebanon, N.H. Finlay was shopping at West Lebanon Feed & Supply with her husband, Tim Buess (not pictured); both are vaccinated for COVID-19. The couple said they were OK with wearing masks but feel we ought to be further along with the pandemic than we are, and that it's discouraging that people do not understand how the virus mutates. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2021 9:10:18 PM
Modified: 9/2/2021 10:00:58 AM

LEBANON — People entering most indoor spaces in Lebanon are again required to wear face masks after the City Council voted Wednesday night to adopt a new mask mandate aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The nine-member council voted, 7-1, during its regular meeting to require people to wear masks in any “business, governmental or non-profit owned premises.”

Mayor Tim McNamara was the lone vote against the measure, and Councilor Devin Wilkie abstained.

The rules, which include exemptions for children under 3 and fully vaccinated employees who don’t interact with the public, take effect Saturday, Sept. 4.

Councilors, who all wore masks to the meeting, said the new ordinance is needed to combat the highly contagious delta variant, which experts attribute to rising coronavirus cases across the country.

New Hampshire, with its 59% vaccination rate, hasn’t been immune, and cases have trended upward since July.

“We tried personal responsibility, and we didn’t see it work,” said City Councilor Doug Whittlesey. “The mask mandate worked before. We didn’t necessarily like it, but it worked.”

When Lebanon’s last mask mandate expired in late June, COVID-19 transmission within Grafton County was listed as “minimal” and the state was averaging about 20 new cases a day, according to New Hampshire’s online COVID-19 dashboard.

Now, the Granite State is reporting 332 new cases a day and every county is listed as having “substantial” transmission levels.

As of Wednesday, state health officials also reported 16 active coronavirus cases each in Lebanon and Hanover. Enfield had eight cases, and Canaan had five.

Six people spoke at Wednesday’s hearing, which was held in person at City Hall and virtually, with residents expressing mixed opinions about new mask rules.

Lebanon resident Dan Nash told the council that the decision to wear a mask should be left up to individuals. People, he said, should know enough to stay home when sick and refrain from interacting with others.

“I just think it’s usurping personal responsibility,” Nash said. “People should be able to decide whether they need to wear a mask.”

But city resident Alan Schnur said increasing COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire warrant a mask mandate and noted studies that indicate fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus.

“I think the time has now come to reinstate the mask mandate to protect the health of all people in Lebanon,” he said.

Ahead of the meeting, the Lebanon city manager’s office said it received no correspondence either advocating for or opposing a draft ordinance on the city’s website.

Likewise, city councilors noted that many people are already wearing masks in Lebanon businesses, and notable city establishments — including Lucky’s Coffee Garage, West Lebanon Feed & Supply, the Hanover Co-op, and the River Valley Club — already require masks regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

Those found to violate the new mask mandate could face a $100 fine for first offenders and $250 for subsequent offenses. City Manager Shaun Mulholland said much of the city’s efforts focus on educating the public and verbal warnings, and citations are issued as a last resort.

“We’ll do the best we can, but it won’t be perfect,” Mulholland said of enforcement.

While the new masking rules don’t apply to Lebanon’s schools, the School Board voted last week to adopt a five-day, in-person class schedule that requires all students and staff to mask while indoors.

The Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon also requires its patrons to wear masks.

Other communities also have again turned to masking as part of efforts to curb the delta variant.

The Hanover Selectboard voted last month to reinstate its indoor mandate, which covers areas of downtown, in response to what officials described as a “significant uptick” in coronavirus cases at Dartmouth College.

And Enfield issued rules last week saying that “town employees, board and committee members, as well as members of the general public” are now required to wear face coverings in the public portions of town buildings.

That includes the lobbies, hallways and meeting areas of Whitney Hall, the police station and the public works facility. However, masks aren’t required in the Enfield Community Building for voluntary recreational events, the rules said.

Meanwhile, Plainfield and Claremont recommend mask usage but are not mandating it.

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

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