New Hampshire will become the first state in New England on Friday without a mandate that people wear masks in public when Gov. Chris Sununu allows the mask order to expire.
Sununu, a Republican, said the decision not to renew the mask mandate was made "as fatalities continue to decline, as hospitalizations remain manageable, and as vaccinations continue to increase."
"This mandate going away will not limit or prevent the ability of private businesses or cities and towns from requiring masks, as was the case beforehand," Sununu said on Twitter.
New Hampshire has averaged 435 new confirmed COVID-19 cases a day over the past week, and two daily deaths from the virus.
By allowing the mask requirement to expire, Sununu joins 23 other states around the country without a mask mandate, despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and President Joe Biden that governors should keep mask requirements in place as cases surge in parts of the country and new more transmissible variants of the virus increase the risk of infection.
Sununu waited longer than many other governors to impose a statewide mask mandate in public, signing an order in November that replaced a patchwork of local orders and requirements for certain types of gatherings and businesses across the Granite State. The order required anyone over the age of 5 to wear a mask when in public indoors or outdoors, but did not apply to schools.
"New Hampshire residents know how to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe without a state mandate — just as we did before the winter surge," Sununu said.
Gov. Charlie Baker said recently he has no plans to change guidelines in Massachusetts, and would follow CDC guidance and wait for more people to be fully vaccinated before easing mask requirements.