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Gov. Chris Sununu says it’s ‘imperative’ for attendees at upcoming Trump rally in Portsmouth, N.H., to wear masks

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.Paul Hayes/for the Boston Globe/file

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said Monday that it’s “imperative” for attendees at President Trump’s upcoming rally Saturday night in Portsmouth, N.H., to wear masks in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Sununu, a Republican, implored his constituents in a statement to don face coverings if they plan to go to the rally.

“As Governor I will always welcome the President of the United States to New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “I am pleased to see the campaign will be handing out face masks and hand sanitizer to all attendees, as has been true at all public gatherings in NH where social distancing is hard to maintain. It is imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks.”

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Sununu’s office said the state hadn’t prevented anyone from peacefully assembling at prior gatherings amid the pandemic, including a Black Lives Matter event and a Reopen NH protest.

In a statement Sunday, the Trump campaign said next Saturday’s outdoor rally in Portsmouth will start at 8 p.m. at Portsmouth International Airport, and that attendees are “strongly encouraged” to wear masks that organizers will give to participants.

The campaign also said there will be ample access to hand sanitizer.

Adding a layer of intrigue, the statement pointedly did not indicate whether Sununu will be on hand to greet Trump when the president touches down in the Granite State for his evening campaign confab.

“The Governor’s schedule is still being finalized,” the statement said. “In the past, the Governor has greeted the President upon arrival at the airport. If the Governor greets the President at the airport, he will be wearing a mask.”

Trump is trailing Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden nationally by double digits and by 9 points in the most recent poll of voters in New Hampshire, which has been considered a swing state for the past two decades.

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This event will mark the first time Trump has been in New Hampshire since a rally in Manchester earlier this year on the eve of the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. It is also the first time he will be in the state since he waded into Republican primaries for the US Senate and a competitive race for Congress in the district where Trump will be visiting next weekend.

“President Trump’s record-setting accomplishments in record-setting time have improved the lives of all Americans. He rebuilt, restored, and renewed our great nation once, and he’ll do it again,” said Hogan Gidley, Trump 2020 national press secretary, in a recent statement announcing the Portsmouth rally.

Trump was last in New England for a pair of official White House events in northern Maine in early June.

“We look forward to so many freedom-loving patriots coming to the rally and celebrating America, the greatest country in the history of the world,” Gidley said.

Many of the president’s supporters at an earlier rally last month in Tulsa, Okla., weren’t wearing masks, despite the recommendation of public health officials to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. James Pindell of the Globe Staff also contributed.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.