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Judge Hears Argument Challenging Sununu's COVID-19 State Of Emergency Order

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A New London salon owner suing the governor over allegations that he exceeded his constituional authority when he extended a State of Emergency order due to the coronavirus pandemic appeared in court on Tuesday.

Mary Rivard, who owns the Color Cafe hair salon, claims Gov. Chris Sununu violated her rights when she was unable to open her business due to coronavirus-related restrictions issued under the State of Emergency and its subsequent renewals.

Rivard’s lawyer, Robert Fojo, told a superior court judge that the number of fatalities, hospitalizations and confirmed cases in the state does not meet the threshold for a governor to declare a state of emergency, and that there is no imminent threat.

“I’m not minimizing any of these deaths whatsoever,” said Fojo. “But this is not the so-called pandemic that we were sold two and a half months ago.”

Dan Will, the state’s Solicitor General countered that the governor is following the advice of public health professionals, and is acting in good faith. Will pointed to the continued spread of the virus, including in neighboring states, as evidence that the extension of the emergency order remains justified.

“This pandemic is not receding from our shores just yet, as Massachusetts in particular shows us,” said Will. 

The judge didn’t issue an immediate ruling. A previous challenge to the governor’s initial State of Emergency order was dismissed. 

Under the governor’s reopening policy, known as Stay at Home 2.0, salons and barbers are allowed to again serve customers, though restrictions remain in place such as requiring masks and spacing chairs to ensure adequate social distancing.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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