By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LACONIA – Some hosting large events soon are re-thinking their plans after Gov. Chris Sununu released a new order Tuesday that gatherings of 100 or more people are required to wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Last Reformation tent rally events in New Ipswich start in two days and Laconia Bike Week starts in 10 days and both are now required to obey the new face mask order, although Sununu has not said what the penalties could be for disobeying it.
New Ipswich Town Manager Scott Butcher said town officials were at first told the The Last Reformation gathering of Danish evangelist Torben Sondergaard followers would not use masks or social distancing for the 200 to 500 people who are expected to attend.
On Wednesday, Butcher said he heard from the town’s Fire Chief Meredith Lund that the group plans to obey the order. He said town officials have been in contact with various state officials for the last week and they have been helpful, but he is still waiting to see what the penalties would be.
Butcher said there have been many calls from townspeople and from other towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts the town borders who wanted more information since the group also plans to go out into the communities.
The site where it will be held is owned by Rep. Paul Somero, R-New Ipswich.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Butcher said. “They say they are planning to. That’s what I am hearing second-hand.”
At least one Bike Week event will include free masks for hundreds of people entering a charity motorcycle ride and after-party.
Cynthia Makris, the organizer of the 14th Annual Peter Makris ride and party Aug. 22, which has raised over $450,000 for charity since its inception, is also the owner of the NASWA Resort in Weirs Beach.
Makris said she is reviewing Sununu’s new order as it relates to requirements for a mask to be worn at large events and she said she will comply with the order, and make sure those who come to the party have a mask.
The emergency order issued Tuesday requires face masks to be worn at events of 100 or more attendees effective immediately. Event organizers face violation level offenses if they fail to make reasonable efforts to ensure compliance or knowingly violate the order.
It is not directed at individuals but organizations and institutions that provide the gathering venue, Sununu said at Tuesday’s news conference.
Sununu noted that fines or punishment issues are being worked out at the state Department of Justice.
Many who are still planning events of such size during a pandemic were also analyzing the order and considering what precautions they can take to protect themselves from prosecution and protect others from getting the virus.
The order states face coverings shall be required for all scheduled gatherings of 100 people or more for social, spiritual and recreational activities including but not limited to community, civic, public, private, leisure, faith-based, political or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and similar activities where individuals are gathered in the same place at the same time.
It notes that the state Department of Public Health and local and state police shall have the authority to enforce the mask order. The order shall not apply to schools, children under age 2, day-to-day operations for-profit or non-profit or local governments.
It will also not apply to those who are seated and separated by six feet from anyone who is not in that person’s household but those individuals will need to wear a mask entering and leaving their table.
In a typical year, Bike Week draws more than 100,000 riders and enthusiasts primarily from across New England but organizer Charlie St. Clair said he does not believe it will be as big this year due to the pandemic and the fact that the city and state have eliminated vendors, stand-up beer tents, and centerline parking for motorcycles on Lakeside Avenue.
Makris said she still has room at her resort and notes that likely most of the people coming will be from Massachusetts this year. She has had a mask rule in place since opening in late May and said most people are willing to comply when she notes she is caring for her 95-year-old mother, Hope Makris, but some are unwilling to wear a mask and are turned away.
The ride, in memory of her father, who was a veteran and member of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, annually raises money for the Laconia Fire Department, the CERT Teams, and Veterans Count, which has had to curtail most of its fundraising this year due to the pandemic.
In a normal year, more than 350 pay to attend the ride and after-party. Many, she said, including the Laconia fire chief, are relieved and thankful that the ride is still on because it provides an important fundraising arm. Recently, she said, she was able to provide funding to send some firefighters to paramedic school.
During the nine-day rally, the NASWA also hosts a number of other events whose numbers can exceed 100 outdoors.
She said in organizing this year’s memorial ride, she ordered masks for attendees that read 14th Annual Peter Makris Ride and she said she thinks her late father would be “amused.”
Because of the pandemic she cannot offer a buffet breakfast but the gourmet lunch will go out in a bag for attendees, Makris said.
A copy of Sununu’s orders requiring masks at events of 100 is more is here. https://www.governor.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt336/files/documents/emergency-order-63.pdf