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Enfield imposes mask mandate in town buildings

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/17/2021 7:10:33 PM
Modified: 8/17/2021 7:10:37 PM

ENFIELD — Rising coronavirus cases prompted Enfield officials to partially reinstate the town’s mask mandate Monday night, and other Upper Valley communities might soon follow suit.

The Enfield Selectboard voted unanimously during its regular meeting to support a plan requiring people to wear face coverings within the town’s municipal buildings.

That includes Whitney Hall, where most town business is performed and some committees regularly meet in person.

Selectboard Chairwoman Meredith Smith said she recently attended a meeting in the building, which dates back to 1901 and has a layout that requires volunteers to be “in close quarters.”

“We were all pretty uncomfortable meeting there,” she said. “It’s not only a small space but there’s very little ventilation.”

Masking in town offices would “ease the concerns” of some committee members who may have compromised immune systems or are more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19, according to Interim Town Manager Jack Wozmak.

He added the mask mandate also will protect people who have to come to the town offices to pay bills or register cars and pets.

Town officials said the move was largely driven by an uptick in coronavirus cases attributed to the highly contagious delta variant. New Hampshire is now averaging 245 new cases of the virus a day — a figure not seensince May — and hospitalizations are again on the rise.

The state on Tuesday also reported seven active cases in Enfield, 10 in neighboring Canaan and 11 in Lebanon.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker, community transmission across the state is “substantial,” the point at which masks are recommended indoors, even for those fully vaccinated.

Both Lebanon and Enfield both enacted mask mandates last summer but dropped them at the start of this summer as cases decreased.

Students and staff in Lebanon schools will start the year wearing face coverings in all city schools, Superintendent Joanne Roberts announced last Friday.

Roberts said the decision was based on guidance from state public health officials, who recommended schools mandate masks in counties where transmission is ‘substantial’ and building-wide vaccination rates are below 80 percent.

“The importance of school and what happens during the school day has become so evident,” Roberts said in her newsletter to parents. “We should do all that we can to try to sustain a five-day in person model this school year.”

On Tuesday, Lebanon City Councilor Karen Liot Hill said that it may be time to revisit a city-wide mandate. She plans to broach the subject of masks during the council’s regular meeting Wednesday night.

“Even though the numbers in the Upper Valley are better than elsewhere, the numbers in New Hampshire, the numbers in the rest of the country are definitely cause for concern,” Hill said.

She went on to note that several Lebanon businesses, including the Hanover Co-op, Lucky’s Coffee Garage and West Lebanon Feed and Supply all reinstated mask mandates in recent weeks.

Dartmouth College also imposed an indoor mask mandate earlier this month requiring people on campus to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status,

“I think people are growing more and more concerned,” Liot Hill said.

Meanwhile, Hanover’s indoor mask mandate governing the downtown area is “going well,” Town Manager Julia Griffin said in an email Tuesday.

That town’s Selectboard voted on Aug. 4 to require masks indoors after COVID-19 tests from Dartmouth College spiked, with some of the positive cases possibly coming from fully vaccinated individuals.

“No citations issued, no reports of significant arguments with patrons of retail and restaurant establishments, good compliance,” Griffin reported. “The next test will be when students begin to arrive, with the first-year students moving in on the 1st/2nd and then the other students moving in on the 11th/12th but we are in good coordination with the College.”

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

Valley News

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