Masks will no longer be required in Portsmouth under a measure approved Monday night by the city council.

The motion to rescind the mask ordinance passed unanimously. A separate proposal to require mask use indoors through June 30 failed 8-1.

Mayor Rick Becksted strongly supported the change, noting support from businesses to make mask use optional. He also cited steep declines in COVID-19 cases in Rockingham County and rising vaccination rates.

“The public has done their job and done it well,” Becksted said Monday night. “We have responsible residents and business owners that have done their job. This has basically run its course.”

“Right now, the people out there are asking us to do what everyone else around us has done, which is eliminate it,” Becksted said of the mask ordinance.

Portsmouth was one of the first New Hampshire communities to require face coverings. It was also the last large community to mandate masks indoors and out as the pandemic has waned.

Councilor Jim Spillane, the city’s assistant mayor, highlighted the new federal and state guidelines around masks. For vaccinated people, he said, “neither are suggesting mandating” masks.

According to officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63.7 percent of American adults have had at least one vaccination. That number jumps to 86.4 percent in the population of people who are 65 years old or older.

Before ending the mask ordinance, Portsmouth councilors rejected a separate proposal that would have kept indoor mask rules in place through June 30. Councilor John Tabor cast the lone vote in support of that proposal.

Under the measure passed by the council, businesses will still be able to require masks within their establishments.

On Tuesday morning, Portsmouth's health department issued a statement removing indoor dining restrictions that remained in effect following the removal of state-level restrictions.

Becksted said he has talked to many business owners who have said they want the choice when it comes to enforcing mask rules. He expects the city’s residents and business community will embrace the change.

“I think Portsmouth is going to be a very happy city tomorrow morning,” Becksted said Monday night.

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