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ROUNDUP: Doctors, Public Health Experts Raise Concerns Over Sununu’s Decision to Lift Mask Mandate

Concord, N.H. -- Medical professionals, public health experts, and local officials are raising concerns over Governor Sununu’s decision to lift the statewide mask mandate -- making New Hampshire the only state in New England without one -- as COVID cases continue to rise in the Granite State. InDepthNH - Distant Dome: Not the Time To End Mask Mandate: “That Sununu waited until after the November election to impose the mask mandate might be indicative of his reasons for lifting it now. Sununu frequently tells the press his team looks at the data to make decisions. Judging from the current COVID data, it is likely the only data being considered is polling data.” “What does ending the mask mandate say to health care workers who worked long hours during the pandemic and watched their patients die? Or to businesses trying to keep their employees and customers safe? What do they say to customers who refuse to wear a mask? They can no longer say, ‘It’s the state mandate, sorry I can’t let you in.’” NBC Boston - Sununu Says He Will Allow NH's Mask Mandate to Expire Friday: “New Hampshire will be the first state in New England to lift its mask mandate, but it could come with severe consequences, one medical expert says. ‘More people will die, so it’s an easy question — it’s a bad idea,’ Boston Medical Center Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Linas said. Linas says the science is clear: Now is the wrong time to get rid of masks.” WMUR - New Hampshire's mask mandate to end Friday, won't be renewed, governor says: “In response to the state's mask mandate ending, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health released a statement saying that mask-wearing, along with vaccination, physical distancing and hand hygiene, are the most effective ways to end the pandemic. ‘As case numbers continue to increase around the region, it is more important than ever to stay the course with masking, as shown by the science and as continues to be strongly recommended by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and chief medical advisor to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci,’ Dartmouth-Hitchcock said.” “Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, urged people to continue to wear masks. ‘We are seeing a real spike in COVID-19 cases, and, with new variants like B.1.1.7 circulating, we will be the only New England state without a mask requirement -- including for visitors from states hot with the virus,’ Williams said. ‘People must respect local government mask mandates and the mask requirements that private businesses have in place, and, frankly, just use commonsense by wearing masks.’” NHPR - Sununu Drops Mask Mandate, Will Lift Most Other Pandemic Restrictions: “But by many other measures, New Hampshire's trends in managing the pandemic are as troubling as any point over the past several months, with several key measures of progress getting worse in recent weeks. For example, New Hampshire is currently averaging more new cases each day, more active cases and more hospitalizations than it was in November 2020, when the statewide mask mandate first took effect.” “At that time, in the month leading up to the mandate, the state reported about 6,600 new COVID cases. In the month leading up to today, the state has reported about 11,500 new cases. About 30 more people are hospitalized, on average, right now, than they were when the mask mandate first took effect. And all 10 New Hampshire counties continue to experience “substantial” transmission of COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.” NHPR - Lifting Of Statewide COVID-19 Precautions Puts Decisions In Lap Of Businesses, Individuals: “Martha Wassell, director of infection prevention at Wentworth Douglass Hospital in Dover, said, while staff shortages have gotten much better, thanks to the rise in vaccinations, many staff are worn down by the pandemic. When it comes to beds, the hospital has been ‘full to the brim’ over the past two weeks with COVID and non-COVID patients, she said, and the hospital opened up annexes to house and care for more patients.” “Anne Sosin, program director for the Center for Global Health Equity at Dartmouth College, said dropping the statewide mask mandate is premature. She said, when it comes to the state’s younger population, many have not yet had the opportunity to get vaccinated. ‘Many young people are working in higher risk settings such as grocery stores, retail, where they’re not choosing whether or not they’re exposed to COVID-19,’ she said. Lifting the mandate leaves them at higher risk for contracting the virus, Sosin said, especially as COVID variants continue to spread.” CBS Boston - New Hampshire Ending Face Mask Mandate: 4 Things To Know: “Some worry that this decision comes too soon. Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron tells WBZ-TV ‘There’s still a lot of COVID in the northeast, in general, the northeast lights up on the map. She worries about immunocompromised or unvaccinated people who might enter a business in New Hampshire this summer. ‘And not have them protected by a mask mandate. Because we do know, without the mandate, a lot of people won’t do it.’” WGME - Health officials urge people to continue wearing masks despite NH dropping mandate: “Healthcare officials in the Granite State say cases and hospitalizations, especially among younger people, have doubled in the past month. ‘Patients are presenting with the typical symptoms, respiratory distress, body aches. We've got five patients in our ICU,’ said Dr. Scott Wolf, the president of Southern New Hampshire Health. One lawmaker, who is also a doctor, called ending the mandate too soon ‘potentially devastating.’” Valley News - As NH’s mask mandate expires, city and town rules remain in place: “It’s too soon to lift the mask mandate,” Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said in a phone interview. ‘We’re not in a hurry at all.’ [...] Griffin said she was ‘disappointed’ in the governor’s announcement and intends to work alongside Dartmouth, which has its own mask mandate, over the coming months. “Tracy Hutchins, executive director of the Upper Valley Business Alliance, said she hasn’t heard many concerns from the group’s members. Still, she worries that it’s too soon to remove the mask mandate. Before it went into effect, she said, a lot of businesses had trouble with customers who violated their mask requirements and became belligerent when approached.” InDepthNH - Sen. Sherman: Ending Statewide Mask Mandate ‘Potentially Devastating’: “‘As a doctor, I am shocked that in spite of these facts the governor is now lifting this critical protection against the spread of COVID-19. It is clear that the pandemic is far from over,’ Sherman said.”

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