Customers Won't Wear a Mask? One State Says to Call the Police.

The new guidelines were issued after businesses told the state that employees were uncomfortable enforcing the mask mandate.

The new guidelines were issued after businesses told the state that employees were uncomfortable enforcing the mask mandate. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Updated guidance from the New Hampshire Attorney General's office instructs businesses to call local law enforcement for assistance if customers simply refuse to comply with a statewide mask mandate.

Businesses in New Hampshire should call law enforcement if customers refuse to wear masks for reasons not exempted under the state’s mask mandate, according to new recommendations from the state attorney general’s office.

The guidance, released last week, is a response to feedback from grocery stores and retailers that employees are uncomfortable enforcing public health guidelines, "particularly the mask-wearing requirement,” issued by Gov. Chris Sununu in November. Sununu’s order requires face coverings in public places for everyone over the age of 5, but did not specify consequences for noncompliance, making enforcement tricky for business owners and their employees.

The recommendations from the attorney general's office aim to fix that by outlining a number of steps that businesses can take to clearly communicate mask requirements, including placing signs on doors and windows, having spare masks and hand sanitizer available, and asking patrons to wear masks as soon as they come inside, as “it is easier to have that discussion at the door as a customer enters than further inside your establishment.” 

If all of that fails, and a customer “just refuses to wear a mask,” businesses should contact local law enforcement for help, the guidance says. To prepare for that possibility, business owners should speak to local agencies ahead of time to establish a plan, which will “provide your staff with a sense of security,” the guidelines advise.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia currently have mask mandates in place, but enforcement has proven difficult and protocols vary widely from place to place. Miami, for example, was strict in levying fines for non-compliance, only to have Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis cancel the outstanding penalties. 

In New Hampshire, Sununu, a Republican, did not comment specifically on the new guidance from the state attorney general's office, but he has said in the past he prefers education over enforcement. “We always work with individuals in this state,” he said in November. “Education is the best tool, and that’s what we’re going to rely on.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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