While Gov. Chris Sununu lifted the state's mask mandate you can still wear one if you choose and there are still places where they are required.

Mask wearing and social distancing are still encouraged as New Hampshire becomes the first New England state to drop the mask mandate State government requiring them was only for the short term, according to Sununu, who said that with a high vaccination rate and the plentiful supply of vaccine to anyone over the age of 16 he feels confident in lifting the mandate.

He is also confident in New Hampshire residents to do make their own decisions in the interest of public health.

"The citizens of the state know what to do. They know what to do in these situations. And they've been tremendous about it," Sununu said at his weekly coronavirus briefing on Thursday. "But having a state mandate saying thou shall must, that's a temporary thing. That's a very harsh thing. And that was a hard decision to make on our part, to be sure. We did it as part of the fall surge. The fall surge is maintained, especially on a fatality-rate basis."

As of Thursday the state was reporting another 423 confirmed positive cases which was down significantly from previous day's number of 552. 321,291, residents, or 23.7% are fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

Durham, Exeter, Newmarket and Portsmouth on the seacoast continue to require mask use with fines for non-compliance,  along with the states of Maine and Massachusetts.

Exeter issued a reminder on Friday that its mandate is in effect until May 29 with fines of $25 for the second offense and $50 for third and subsequent violations. The first violation is a written or verbal request to comply.

"The Town of Exeter recognizes that the health and wellbeing of the citizens, businesses, employees and visitors to Exeter are of the utmost importance, and mask-wearing in public is necessary to further protect the community from the potential spread of COVID-19," the town said in a statement.

Durham's Town Administrator Todd Selig also issued  a statement that their mandate is being enforced. A first offense is $100, second is $200 and third and subsequent violations are $500.

Portsmouth's mask mandate is in effect until June 30 which is subject to a maximum $25 fine for violations.

Newmarket's was renewed on April 7 and remains in effect until June 7. Although the ordinance states "we are not here to punish people" it carries a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $500 for each subsequent offense.

The Seacoast Science Center in Rye in a tweet said visitors will still be required to wear masks.

Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Frisbee Memorial Hospital in Rochester, both operate by HCA Healthcare, shared similar messages on their Facebook pages to continue mask wearing and other protocols.

"Portsmouth Regional Hospital continues to advocate for mask wearing - along with vaccination, physical distancing, and diligent hand hygiene – as the most effective ways to end the pandemic. According to the CDC, wearing masks helps stop the spread of COVID-19 and saves lives, even for those who have received the vaccine," read their message.

Around the state Concord, Enfield, Franconia, Hanover, Keene,  Lebanon, Nashua, Pembroke, Plainfield, Plymouth are still enforcing mask mandates. Berlin, Lyme, Manchester and New London passed unenforced resolutions encouraging their use.

Next up for New Hampshire will be the lifting of  "safer at home" guidance on May 7 which means that restrictions on capacities will also be eliminated.

"That'll all be incorporated as what we're calling our universal best practices for businesses, families, whatever it might be, just kind of those eternal reminders, if you will, that COVID is still with us. If and when we can, to be safe, to socially distance when we can, use masks when appropriate, and when you feel comfortable doing so," Sununu said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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