By Christian Wade | The Center Square
With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations still rising, Gov. Chris Sununu has extended a statewide mask mandate and travel guidance for residents.
The rules require face masks or coverings be worn at all times indoors and outdoors where a person can’t maintain a distance of at least six feet. Children under 5 years old and people with disabilities and medical conditions would be exempt from the rules. The mandate, which took effect on Nov. 20, was set to expire Friday.
“Our healthcare system is still under an immense amount of pressure,” the Republican said in a statement. “To loosen or eliminate the tools we have utilized with success so far is the wrong approach to fighting this pandemic. The light at the end of the tunnel is within sight, but we must remain vigilant and we cannot let up now.”
Sununu also issued an executive order extending a travel guidance asking Granite Staters who travel out of New England to quarantine for 14 days upon their return, or quarantine for seven days upon their return, followed by a negative COVID-19 test.
To date, the Granite State has reported 54,778 COVID-19 cases and 897 deaths, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
Despite that, Sununu has resisted calls from public health experts to tighten restrictions on the state’s businesses and public places. New Hampshire was one of the last states in the country to set a mask mandate.
Masks and homemade face coverings act as a barrier for respiratory droplets that can be propelled into the air when an infected person coughs, shouts or sneezes.
Medical experts say face coverings are among the most effective personal protective measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The mask requirements have created disputes between officials who want to require face coverings and those, mostly conservatives, who say the measures are government overreach.
In New Hampshire, critics have staged protests outside Sununu’s Newfields home, which prompted him to make his inauguration speech virtual.
Sununu’s executive order extends the mask mandate until March 26.