CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu is imposing a statewide face mask mandate effective Friday. He said rising COVID-19 statistics – including case numbers, percent of positive tests and hospitalizations – persuaded him to put the mandate in place for all indoor public spaces and outdoors when social distancing can't be maintained.

Other states throughout the region already have such mandates.

Sununu said he held off on doing this until it became clear that key disease metrics are rising and that most areas of the state are seeing cases of the disease.

Nearly 100 people statewide – double the number of two weeks ago – are now hospitalized with COVID-19. The percentage of positive test results has risen from 1 percent to near 5 percent.

Daily cases, which were 20 or less throughout the summer, reached 529 on Thursday.

"The decision did not come lightly," Sununu said in a remote news conference.

He said his decision underscores the "seriousness of the current crisis and this latest surge in hospitalizations."

Sununu said that a mask mandate has the potential for reducing the surge in cases and maintaining bed capacity in the state's hospitals to care for COVID-19 patients.

The mandate will remain in effect through January 15, 2021.

All people over the age of 5 shall wear mask or cloth face coverings over their noses and mouths any time they are in public spaces, indoors or outdoors, where they are unable to or do not consistently maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from persons outside their own households.

For purposes of the order, Sununu's office said, the term “public spaces” includes any part of private or public property that is generally open or accessible to the general public. That includes, but is not limited to, lobbies, waiting areas, outside plazas or patios, restaurants, retail businesses, streets, sidewalks, parks, beaches, elevators, restrooms, stairways, parking garages, etc.

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