Select Board Declines Mask Mandate

Lancaster Town Hall, Lancaster, N.H. #filephoto

LANCASTER — The Board of Selectmen on Monday declined to impose a temporary mask order.

Town Manager Ben Gaetjens-Oleson raised the issue on behalf of Weeks Medical Center, which has seen a rush of patients due to substantial COVID-19 transmission rates in the area.

Lancaster had 24 cases as of Wednesday.

“The hospital reached out to me and asked if the town is considering a mask mandate,” Gaetjens-Oleson said.

Select Board Chair Leon Rideout said he strongly supported mask use, but argued against a local ordinance.

He said it would be difficult to enforce, and a misuse of town resources.

“I don’t think we want our local police department walking around Shaw’s forcing people to put a mask on,” Rideout said.

Police Chief Tim Charbonneau agreed, calling an indoor masking requirement “unenforceable.”

“If people want to wear them, they should. If they don’t, it’s a risk they are taking,” Charbonneau said.

There is precedent for a targeted, temporary approach.

Berlin and Gorham each enacted mask orders last month. Gorham’s was recently extended to Nov. 22; Berlin’s runs through Nov. 24.

Meanwhile school districts have enacted various policies dictating when and where a person must cover their face.

The issue will remain a local one for the time being.

Gov. Chris Sununu said he has no plans to revisit statewide mask mandates, which would require him to call a state of emergency.

At the suggestion of Rideout, the Select Board will draft a letter recommending mask use in the community.

“I think we can do as much as we can to highly encourage people to wear them around town,” he said.


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