CLAREMONT — The Claremont Policy Committee tabled its planned discussion on Thursday for a local mandatory mask ordinance after Gov. Chris Sununu threw a wrench into the scenario by announcing a statewide mask mandate in the late afternoon.
With little information about Sununu’s new executive order, the Claremont Policy Committee voted to reschedule their discussion for Thursday, Dec. 3, to allow time to better understand the state order in respect to the committee’s own purpose.
The city committee received direction from the Claremont City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 11, to draft a mandatory mask ordinance for the council to review at a future meeting, possibly as soon as Dec. 9.
The city council said it wanted to model its ordinance after one adopted by the Lebanon City Council on Aug. 12. The Lebanon ordinance requires any person over the age of 10 to wear a cloth covering over one’s nose and mouth when in close proximity to other people when frequenting public property, places of business or outdoor gatherings. The ordinance includes monetary fines of $100 for one’s first non-compliance and $250 for the second and each subsequent offense.
Councilors were initially split about whether to include monetary penalties, which would be a central point of discussion by the Claremont Policy Committee.
The lack of familiarity with Sununu’s order complicated the committee’s ability to proceed last night. While municipalities may enact provisions that are stricter than those of the state, that local ordinance must comply with the state’s provisions.
“If the state ordinance is more strict, then you have to follow that,” City Manager Ed Morris told the committee. “But if we made one that is more strict than the state, we can do that.”
Morris said the committee might still want to discuss a local penalty system, which Sununu’s order currently does not detail.
At a press conference on Thursday Sununu said he hopes citizens will comply without requiring enforcement measures.
Complicating the process further, many provisions in Sununu’s order are stricter than what Claremont was considering.
“Our language said that children 10 and under don’t have to wear masks,” said city councilor and committee member Erica Sweetser. “But the gover’s mandate only exempts five and under.”
The committee, should it decide to include monetary penalties, will also need to decide whether to apply penalties to certain provisions in the ordinance or to the entirety, including the governor’s provisions.
The governor’s order requires all citizens over the age of five to wear to wear a mask or cloth covering over their nose or mouth whenever they cannot “consistently maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from persons outside their own households.”
The governor’s mandate applies to indoors and outdoors and public or private properties that are accessible to the general public.
Additionally the governor’s order states that citizens must still abide by the policies set by individual businesses or organizations. For example, a patron must still wear a mask inside a store that requires one, even if the patron is not within six feet of other people.
In addition to exceptions including while dining or performing extraneous activities, the governor’s order does not require people with a medical or developmental issue to prove their condition through documentation or evidence.