CONCORD — Restaurants will be required to ask customers their name and phone number under new state requirements, Gov. Chris Sununu said in his weekly news conference on Thursday.
The restaurant and lodging industry suggested the new rule to the governor’s reopening task force. It is intended to help with contact tracing should a case of COVID-19 be reported, Sununu said.
“The process has worked well in other states across the country,” Sununu said. “I agree with the recommendation and it goes into effect this Saturday.”
COVID-19 case numbers have been increasing in the state.
On Thursday, Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, announced 131 new cases. He reported four new deaths, all residents of long term care facilities. Thirty people are currently hospitalized.
On the plus side, only about 1 percent of those tested are coming back positive for the disease.
Chan said the increasing case numbers go beyond the fact that more people are being tested and indicate an uptick in community spread. A total of 482 people have died of COVID-19 in New Hampshire.
He said 30 percent to 40 percent of those with the disease are asymptomatic. By wearing a face mask, a person who is unknowingly carrying the disease can avoid passing it to others, including those with underlying conditions that would make them vulnerable to serious complications.
Sununu has been bullish on recommending social distancing and use of facial coverings, but, unlike some governors, he has resisted a statewide requirement for people to wear masks. Some localities, including Plymouth, have instituted such a mandate.
Since the severity of the pandemic has been worse in southern New Hampshire than other parts of the state, there are reasons why there should be local flexibility in determining whether or not masks should be required, the governor said.
“We’ve never said anything is off the table,” Sununu said. “If we have to play that, it’s like one of the final cards you have to play, or even going back to a stay at home order. We don’t want to go back to that level.
“We’ve always said we are very supportive of any locality that wants to implement a mask mandate. That’s their choice. We are supportive of that, knowing that certain cities and towns especially in the southern tier have a much higher prevalence of it and there’s over 50 percent of cities and towns in New Hampshire that have no Covid whatsoever.”
He also said masks mandates are not a silver bullet. A lot depends on people acting appropriately, no matter what the rules are.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan has previously called for a national and statewide mask requirement.
"Public health experts agree that universal mask-wearing is incredibly important for containing the spread of this virus.
"Right now, the burden of enforcing mask wearing is left to small businesses or others, which isn't fair or safe."
Sununu said previously he disagreed with President Donald Trump’s statement that people shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19.
Also, Sununu has seemed to disagree with the president’s debate response to a question about white supremacy, has been critical of some of the federal response to the pandemic and meets the president at the airport, but doesn’t go to his rallies.
Asked at the news conference whether he still supports the president, and if so, why, Sununu merely said:
“I do support the president.”