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NH Gov. Sununu announces mask mandate at COVID briefing

The order will be in effect through Jan. 15, NH Gov. Sununu said Thursday.
Credit: AP

NEW HAMPSHIRE, USA — People in New Hampshire will be required to wear masks starting Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu said at an ongoing news conference.

Under his executive order, anyone over 5 years old will have to wear a mask or fact covering whenever they're in public, whether indoors or outdoors, and can't keep at least 6 feet away from people they don't live with.

Sununu said the decision "did not come lightly. Many factors were clearly taken into consideration."

The order will be in effect through Jan. 15. It comes with the state seeing a record number of new coronavirus cases, 529 on Thursday. There were an average of 400 infections being detected per day over the last week, more than twice what the metric was showing two weeks ago, State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said.

The number of people in New Hampshire hospitals has roughly doubled as well, to 98. Sununu noted that there is still hospital capacity but Thursday's announcements are meant to prevent an overload on the health care system.

Sununu has long advocated for mask wearing, but it hasn't been required. However, he said he felt the order was in citizens' best interest, with New Hampshire's coronavirus tests returning positive at higher rates, the virus now detected in all 10 counties and outbreaks at 11 long-term care facilities.

"It works, the data shows that. It has been proven," Sununu said of masks.

This is a breaking news update. Read an earlier version of the story below.

Gov. Chris Sununu is giving a coronavirus update after asking President Donald Trump earlier this week to authorize more National Guard personnel to help distribute coronavirus vaccines once they are made available.

Sununu received approval for up to 400 guard personnel through Dec. 31 to help with testing, COVID-19 mapping, supporting warehouse and personal protective equipment distribution, and establishing alternate care sites and surge hospitals across the state. He is now asking to retain up to 900 guard personnel through March 31, 2021.

In a letter to Trump on Tuesday, Sununu said that the guard's mission will "significantly increase beyond the current expiration date to a myriad of medical, public health and economic challenges."

"The New Hampshire National Guard's support will be critical to our ability to vaccinate the citizens of our state," he added.

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in New Hampshire since the start of the pandemic, including 447 new cases announced Wednesday, when two new deaths were announced. That brought the total to 504.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 131 new cases per day on Nov. 3 to 340 new cases per day on Nov. 17.