By Tom Ozimek
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said Wednesday he’s opposed to bringing back a mask mandate in the state following a guidance reversal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that now calls for some fully vaccinated people to wear facial coverings indoors.
“Everyone in America agrees that the messaging out of Washington is extremely confusing and this latest announcement only reinforces that at this time, the best solution to getting out of this pandemic lies with the individual,” Sununu’s office said in a statement to Boston25News, referring to the CDC’s recent masking policy shift, which came several months after the agency announced that fully vaccinated persons didn’t need to wear masks indoors because of the protection provided by the vaccines.
The CDC on July 27 revised its guidance on masking, citing the threat of the Delta variant, with the agency now recommending fully vaccinated people to mask up indoors in public places if they’re in areas of “substantial or high transmission.” According to the CDC, much of the country falls into that category.
“New Hampshire has among the lowest rates of COVID of anywhere in the United States, and Governor Sununu does not support the reimplementation of COVID restrictions, including mask mandates,” Sununu’s office said in a statement to CBS Boston.
Calling the COVID-19 vaccines “the single greatest tool individuals have to protect themselves and their family,” Sununu encouraged New Hampshire residents to get inoculated, according to the statement.
At the same time, Sununu has stressed he views vaccinations as a matter of personal choice.
“Right now, it’s folks’ individual responsibility. If someone hasn’t been vaccinated at this point, they’ve made that conscious decision not to,” Sununu said on July 22. “The government’s job is to provide that open door. If you want the vaccine, here it is, nice and easy.”
“So you have every tool in the toolbox available to you and your family to make that decision,” he added.
Sununu signed a “medical freedom” bill (pdf) into law this week, preventing government entities in New Hampshire from denying people access or services based on their vaccination status.
“Every person has the natural, essential, and inherent right to bodily integrity, free from any threat or compulsion by government to accept an immunization,” the bill reads.
The new law leaves in place state regulations requiring vaccinations for admission to school and it allows mandatory vaccinations in prisons and jails.
The Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the pathogen that causes COVID-19, has been listed as a “variant of concern” by the CDC, which considers it to be more transmissible and potentially more resistant to vaccines.
While the CDC’s revised guidance isn’t binding, it’s closely followed by health departments, businesses, and other entities across the country, which often calibrate enforceable policies according to the agency’s recommendations.
Mask-wearing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become a hot-button issue, with some questioning the efficacy of facial coverings and others opposing mandates on grounds of personal liberty. Advocates tend to have taken a better-safe-than-sorry approach in the face of underpowered efficacy studies on mask-wearing, while generally viewing mandates as a minor inconvenience that helps protect people who are prone to serious complications if they get infected.
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