City Council Adopts Face Covering Resolution; Ordinance Work Session July 22

July 17, 2020

At their meeting on July 13, the Portsmouth City Council unanimously adopted “A Resolution Requiring Face Coverings to be Worn at Times in the City of Portsmouth.” The Council also, at that meeting, unanimously voted to send a letter drafted by Councilor Cliff Lazenby to Governor Sununu and to be shared with surrounding communities to encourage them to send similar letters to the Governor.

The Council also unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine encouraging residents to develop creative ways to provide positive reinforcement to the wearing of face coverings. That suggestion was forwarded to the Citizen Response Task Force for action.

The Council asked for guidance from City Attorney Bob Sullivan as to the process that would be required to enact a City ordinance that mandated the wearing of face coverings to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as strongly recommended by the CDC, the NH State Epidemiologist and Governor Sununu.

Attorney Sullivan provided an outline of the process to the Council at the continuation of the Council meeting and discussion on July 15. The Mayor has now scheduled a City Council Work Session on Wednesday, July 22 at 7 pm (via Zoom), in accordance with the process.

The Zoom meeting is open to the public and requires advance registration. The Agenda and the Zoom registration details will be posted on the City website on Monday.

The following is the text of the Resolution adopted by the City Council on July 13, 2020:

A Resolution Requiring Face Coverings Be Worn At Times In The City of Portsmouth

"In our fight against the ongoing COVID-19 threat, this Resolution is offered in consideration of the health and lives of the residents of the City of Portsmouth, our visitors, the employees of our community in the public and private sectors, and the success, economic stability, and well-being of the businesses of our community.  

"Be it resolved that the City Council of the City of Portsmouth considers that infectious diseases are caused by germs such as viruses and bacteria;  

"That some diseases have the ability to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets; 

"That many public health officials and medical professionals have determined that it is possible for an infected individual to transmit diseases, even without exhibiting any symptoms; 

"And that currently the best means of slowing the spread of a respiratory virus such as COVID-19 is by minimizing close personal contact between individuals, which includes social-distancing of at least six feet from one another and covering our nose and mouth by wearing a face covering in places where we are in contact with each other;

"That to protect the residents, visitors, businesses, and the employees of our city and businesses, we must require the wearing of face coverings at times in our interactions with other people; 

"That to protect our businesses and put them on equal footing with one another, that we must require uniformity in the wearing of face coverings by their employees and customers; 

"And that to promote the restoration and recovery of our economy, which has been negatively affected by the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting temporary closing down of our society, that we must respond with intelligent and informed science and medical-based action.

"Therefore we, as the Portsmouth City Council acting on behalf of the City of Portsmouth, require that face coverings made of cloth fabric, or other soft material, or other appropriate face shields that cover the nose and mouth of the person wearing the face covering be worn when people are within the social-distancing guidelines of six feet or less, as recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  The face covering may be factory-made or homemade as long as it covers the nose and mouth of the person wearing it.

"These requirements will not pertain to persons six years of age or younger, or to persons who believe that they have a medical or other condition which may pose a risk to that person for health or related reasons.  

"Nor will these requirements pertain to persons walking, biking, or exercising so long as physical separation of at least six feet is maintained.  When an individual is in any situation where at least six feet is maintained, no face covering is required. 

"The purpose of this Resolution is a good-faith effort to discourage close interaction with other persons who are not related or who do not generally and regularly socialize to maintain at least a six foot distance from one another, and to increase our awareness that when we are within that distance that we should wear a face covering.   

"In no case shall there be a financial fine or penalty of any kind, nor any civil penalty, for enforcement of these requirements.  

"And we additionally request that the Governor of the State of New Hampshire recognize the continued significant threat of COVID-19 from other parts of our nation and the world, and realize that our state, and our Seacoast community, attracts and welcomes visitors from elsewhere.  Therefore, under the health emergency authority provided, we ask the Governor to mandate the requirements stated in this Resolution throughout New Hampshire."  

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City Manager & Clipper Strong Fund Committee in their face coverings.