State Watch

NH issues mask mandate ahead of motorcycle rally: 'Sturgis was a real clear warning'

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has issued a mask mandate ahead of a large motorcycle rally later this month in the state.

New Hampshire is set to host the Laconia motorcycle rally from Aug. 22-30, a smaller version of the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. The New Hampshire event normally attracts thousands of people to the Granite State.

The order, which requires people in attendance at gatherings of 100 or more people to wear a mask, was enacted by Sununu after he watched videos of attendees who were gathering close together at the Sturgis rally over the weekend without protection.

"Sturgis was a real clear warning sign to us," Sununu said during a Tuesday press conference. "I don't think anyone saw the photos out of Sturgis and said, 'That looks safe.' No, I think it just brought a second level of awareness to us on all these different matters."

Those who attended the rally in South Dakota were encouraged, but not required, to wear a facial covering. The 10-day event that started on Friday is estimated to attract about 250,000 people to the state. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) welcomed the rally, citing the state's relatively low coronavirus case counts after President Trump's Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore. 

The mandate comes as the U.S. still struggles to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Cases have ticked down in a number of states in recent weeks, but still remain at high levels.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire has seen a consistent decline in cases since its peak in May, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The order issued by Sununu is not as strict as some issued by counterparts in other New England states. In Massachusetts, for example, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued a mask mandate on May 6 requiring people to wear facial coverings in all public spaces when social distancing is not possible.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) issued a similar order in May, requiring residents to wear masks in public spaces if they cannot maintain social distancing.