[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Gov. Chris Sununu is imposing a statewide mask mandate, starting Friday, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in New Hampshire. Sununu made the announcement Thursday during his weekly briefing on the coronavirus. The new emergency order comes as the state has recorded its highest totals of current COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

“This is obviously a decision that did not come lightly,” Sununu said.

The mandate will apply to all indoor public spaces and outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Sununu did not say that people would be fined or otherwise penalized for not wearing a mask. He noted that the Attorney General’s Office has some enforcement authority it has exercised with some businesses, but he said the state will work to educate people on the importance of wearing masks.

The order came as New Hampshire health officials announced 529 new cases of COVID-19, a record over the course of the pandemic. State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said there were 4,006 active cases in the state, also a record.

Thursday’s 4.1% PCR test positivity rate was the second-highest rate since the state began reporting it on Oct. 2. Officials said there are 98 people hospitalized in the state for COVID-19, the most since June 1. The number is more than double what it was two weeks ago.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]