Manchester aldermen considering $1,000 fine for not wearing mask

Manchester aldermen considering $1,000 fine for not wearing mask

New Hampshire does not have a statewide mask mandate.

Manchester city officials are debating instituting a citywide mask requirement with a fine up to $1,000 for violators, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

The proposal from health officials would allow the Manchester public health director – or police and fire chief if designated – to enforce the ordinance and fine individuals up to $1,000 for failing to comply.

If passed, masks would be required inside public spaces unless six feet of social distancing can be maintained at all times, when entering and exiting a restaurant, common spaces in offices or apartments, and at indoor recreation and entertainment facilities.

Mayor Joyce Craig supports the ordinance, citing students returning to school and flu season closing in.

Manchester Health Director Anna Thomas says the ordinance is meant to educate people and use punishment as a last resort. However, residents would be allowed to file complaints against businesses and individuals online or through an app. Officials would then follow up on these complaints.

The proposal has been met with skepticism, even from aldermen who support wearing masks in public.

“It is also my opinion requiring police and fire to ‘diligently enforce’ this ordinance places an additional unnecessary burden on our already overburdened first responders and has the potential to create negative contacts between first responders and the public as a whole,” said Ald. Mike Porter, 8th Ward, according to the Union Leader.

Porter emphasized he supports individuals wearing masks in public and wears one himself, but fining someone $1,000 is an extreme measure.

New Hampshire is one of 20 states without a statewide mask requirement. More rules about masks have been implemented recently, however.

On July 20, the Manchester Board of School Committee voted to require masks in schools for all children and staff over age 2. On Aug. 11, Gov. Chris Sununu issued an order requiring masks at gatherings over 100 people. Many municipalities throughout the state have their own mask requirements, too.

In the last seven days, New Hampshire and Vermont have seen fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita than any other state, according to data compiled by the Washington Post as of Sept. 2.

With New Hampshire faring far better on COVID-19 than most states in the nation, imposing severe fines during an economic downturn shows some leaders are out of touch with reality – and don’t respect the extent to which Granite Staters have kept each other safe without strict mandates.

Residents can contact the Manchester mayor’s office here and city council members here.

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