Watch: Member of N.H. Nurses Association speaks on CNN about the need for a state mask mandate with school reopenings

"We as school nurses strongly state that we should have everybody masked at all times, not just in the school community."

The New Hampshire Nurses Association is pushing for the institute of a state-wide mask mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as school reopenings get into full swing.

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Paula MacKinnon, a nurse and communication specialist with the group, appeared on CNN on Friday to highlight the importance of a universal mask policy as school districts across the state implement a range of learning models to get kids back-to-school. 

According to New Hampshire Public Radio, New Hampshire is the only state in the region that doesn’t have a state-wide mandate requiring face masks or coverings in public to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Only a handful of towns and cities in the state have adopted mask requirements on their own, including Nashua, Concord, and Keene.

MacKinnon, who works as a nurse in the Salem School District and also serves as the president of the New Hampshire School Nurses Association, said on CNN that the lack of clear messaging on the use of masks presents a serious concern as schools across the state opt for a mix of in-person, hybrid, and fully remote instruction.


Most school districts in the state, she said, are mandating the use of masks for in-person instruction. 

“We are an extension of the community, we are a portion of the community,” she said of the mixed signal for kids. “And when we mandate masks here at school, but yet when they leave school, they’re under the jurisdiction of their parents and any other laws that may be present, they no longer have to wear the masks. And that mixed message is — it’s hard to speak to. Because with schools going to the lengths that they’ve gone to be able to reopen, to make it safe for kids so that they can be in school, to then have those protections undone by the community, really says that the mixed messaging isn’t necessarily on the school nurse’s part or the school’s part — it’s on the community as a whole.”


As of Friday, there are 316 current cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire, with more than 7,600 cases of the virus diagnosed in residents since the start of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individuals wear masks or face coverings “in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

“What we would like is that everyone be listening to the same guidance,” MacKinnon told CNN. “We as school nurses strongly state that we should have everybody masked at all times — not just in the school community.”


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