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Enfield rescinds mask mandate

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/7/2021 7:57:04 PM
Modified: 6/8/2021 1:38:06 PM

ENFIELD — Officials in Enfield voted Monday night to rescind the town’s mask mandate effective June 18.

The town joins several Upper Valley communities that recently opted to roll back coronavirus restrictions.

The Selectboard voted unanimously to do away with its ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings in businesses and heavily trafficked areas.

However, those same officials strongly encouraged residents who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine to continue wearing masks.

“There still is a significant portion of individuals who have either not had two vaccinations or perhaps not had any vaccinations for one reason or another,” said Selectboard member John Kluge. “Those are the people I’m worried about.”

Monday’s decision was made after a roughly hour-long public hearing attended virtually by more than 50 people.

About ¾ of the people who spoke were in favor of lifting the mask mandate.

Vaccines weren’t available when Enfield’s rules were adopted last August. Now, more than 57% of Grafton County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

There are currently no active cases in Enfield.

Enfield resident Holly Weinstein said there’s no perfect time to lift the town’s rules.

Some people are never going to get one of the vaccines, she said, and if officials are waiting for 100% compliance, “it’s never going to happen.”

“I think that at this point, we are able to be wise, be smart. We know to stay home if we’re ill. We know what we need to do,” Weinstein said. “I think it’s time to let it go.”

The Selectboard’s decision leaves neighboring Lebanon and Hanover among just a handful of New Hampshire communities still requiring residents to wear masks.

Gov. Chris Sununu dropped a statewide mask mandate in April, and most communities have since followed suit. Plainfield, for instance, rescinded its mask ordinance last month.

In Vermont, Norwich also requires residents and visitors to wear masks in some locations — including the transfer station — even though the state mask mandate was lifted for fully vaccinated people.

The remaining patchwork of regulations in the Upper Valley can be difficult to track from town to town.

“I wish everybody was on the same page,” Norwich resident Lynne Trumpower said during a visit to Colburn Park in Lebanon on Monday.

Trumpower, who is fully vaccinated, said she prefers to wear a mask while visiting indoor shops and restaurants.

“I just want people to feel safe,” she said.

Though she acknowledged it can be a “hassle” to stay abreast of each community’s rules, especially when many have or are scheduled to change.

For instance, the Lebanon City Council voted last week to allow people who are fully vaccinated to go without masks inside some workplaces where employees don’t interact with the public. And City Manager Shaun Mulholland said they were no longer required at the Lebanon Farmers Market. 

Breck Taber, the co-owner of Omer and Bob’s in downtown Lebanon, said he was aware that the city amended its rules but wasn’t quite sure what the changes entailed.

The ski and bike shop — which began requiring customers to wear masks before Lebanon adopted its mandate — will continue that policy until younger children can get vaccinated, Taber said.

Taber also acknowledged that he’s “getting tired” of masking.

At nearby Rogers House, resident Dan Griswold said he’s noticed more people without masks in downtown Lebanon.

The 81-year-old said he doesn’t see a need for them once someone is vaccinated.

“I’ve had both shots — what the hell do I need it for,” Griswold said.

The Lebanon Fire Department administered vaccines to residents of Griswold’s senior apartment complex. He said he would be glad to see city officials end what’s left of the mask mandate.

“I’ve got no objection if they want to wear them, just don’t ask me to,” he said.

Hanover also saw a change in its community masking dynamic last week when Dartmouth College announced it would no longer require masks in outdoor spaces on campus. (The town’s mask ordinance remains in effect for businesses and other public areas off-campus)

Lucas Anderson, who works in computing services at the Thayer School of Engineering, took the new rules as an opportunity to walk without a mask to enjoy lunch on the Dartmouth Green.

“I do (wear masks) to make other people comfortable in stores and indoors,” he said. “Outside, I’m getting comfortable with my mask off.”

Jennifer Bodenwebber, who works in Dartmouth’s advancement division, also enjoyed Monday’s summer-like temperatures on the green without a mask.

“I’m comfortable unmasked outside,” she said.

Other Upper Valley residents also expressed readiness for mask mandates to end, saying it wouldn’t necessarily change how they go about their day.

Canaan resident Tina Roussel, who was visting the Lebanon Mall for lunch, said she wears a mask to make people feel comfortable and prevent conflicts.

“I do it more because of that rather than, ‘Oh, I’m scared of getting sick,’ ” Roussel said. “I personally would rather not have to do that but I also understand.”

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

Correction

Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland   last week lifted the mask requirement at the Lebanon Farmers Market. An earlier version of this story misstated who rescinded the event’s mask mandate. 




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