LANCASTER — The Board of Selectmen have encouraged mask use, but remain opposed to a community mask mandate.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Select Board encouraged members of the public to take measures against COVID-19, as New Hampshire continues to lead the country in the rate of new coronavirus cases.

“With winter definitely upon us and the holiday season in full swing we feel it important to recommend and encourage everyone in our community to wear a mask and practice any other mitigation strategies to slow the spread of COVID,” the statement said.

“The increasing number of new cases daily and hospitalizations in our area is cause for concern and we hope everyone will do their part to protect our overwhelmed healthcare system, as well as your families, friends and neighbors.”

Lancaster had 23 active cases and one of the highest new case rates north of Franconia Notch as of Dec. 3.

The COVID spike has caused a bed shortage at Weeks Medical Center and forced the cancellation of the Olde Tyme Christmas Celebration.

Meanwhile, Lancaster Elementary has reported 110 cases since classes resumed in August, more than other schools in the district (White Mountains Regional High, Whitefield Elementary) combined.

In their statement, Select Board members, Leon Rideout, Troy Merner and Shane Beattie applauded the community for having an 80 percent vaccination rate (according to DHHS) and being “one of the most vaccinated municipalities in the state.”

However, they continued to oppose a mask order.

Last month the Select Board, along with Police Chief Tim Charbonneau, concluded that a mask order was difficult to enforce and a poor use of law enforcement resources.

“We do not feel a mask mandate is necessary and hope we will all do what is necessary to bring this pandemic to an end. Wear a mask whenever in public — at least when you cannot stay more than 6 feet from others, stay home if you are feeling ill, get tested if symptoms are consistent with COVID and get vaccinated if you have not already or receive a booster if you are fully vaccinated. The more we all practice these the sooner we can hopefully return to a more normalized world,” the statement says.

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