Coronavirus Blog: Earlier Updates (May 21 - June 15) | New Hampshire Public Radio

Coronavirus Blog: Earlier Updates (May 21 - June 15)

Jun 15, 2020

This post gathers NHPR's past updates on coronavirus in New Hampshire with a date range beginning May 21, 2020.

NOTE: Some of the stories below may contained outdated guidance and stories that have since evolved. Please click the links below for the most up-to-date coverage and guidance. 

Earlier updates:

'Stay At Home' order expires in New Hampshire

Update: Monday, June 15, 4:55 p.m.

New Hampshire’s ‘Stay At Home’ order will expire at midnight, as will the cap on gatherings of more than ten people.

Related story: What's open (and what's not open) in New Hampshire?

The stay-at-home provision was put in place by Gov. Chris Sununu on March 28 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly three months later, community transmission of COVID-19 remains a risk in all 10 New Hampshire counties, though testing is now widely available and hospitals say they are prepared to handle any potential surge in cases.

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While nearly all businesses have been allowed to reopen, occupancy restrictions remain in place at many locations, and masks and social distancing are still recommended in public places.

- Todd Bookman

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Two more COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire

Update: Sunday, June 14, 6:00 p.m.

Two additional deaths reported Sunday brings New Hampshire's total COVID-19 to 320. Both patients who died were female residents of Hillsborough County who were over 60 years of age.

New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services also announced 21 new positive test results. The state's confirmed case total is now 5,318

- NHPR Staff

3 additional deaths brings N.H. total to 318

Update: Saturday, June 13, 4:24 p.m.

Three additional deaths reported Saturday increases New Hampshire's total coronavirus deaths to 318.

The three residents — two men and a woman — were 60 and older and from Hillsborough County.

N.H. Health and Human Services also announced 49 new positive test results. The state's confirmed case total rises to 5,299, more than 70 percent of whom have recovered.

Ten of the new cases required hospitalization. As of June 13, the current hospitalization bed count is 71.

New Hampshire is closing in on 100,000 people being tested for COVID-19. To date, 96,421 have been tested, and another 15,000 have had antibody lab tests conducted.

On Monday, June 15, Gov. Chris Sununu will lift his stay-at-home order as the state reopens remaining closed and restricted parts of the economy under previous emergency orders. The state continues to recommend Granite Staters wear cloth face coverings and masks when in public and maintain physical distancing of 6 feet.

- NHPR Staff

7 additional deaths, 46 new cases

Update: Friday, June 12, 7 p.m.

State health officials announced seven additional deaths on Friday, bringing the total COVID-19 deaths to 315 in New Hampshire.

All seven residents were women aged 60 or older; six are from Hillsborough County, one from Belknap County, according to New Hampshire Health and Human Services.

The state reported 46 new positive tests. The state's case total rises to 5,251, with 3,843, or 73 percent, having recovered from the virus. Nearly 100,000 Granite Staters have now been tested for coronavirus.

Explore the Data: Tracking COVID-19 in New Hampshire

- NHPR Staff

State extends call hours for COVID relief fund deadline

Update: Friday, June 12, 4:11 p.m.

The state is extending call hours for businesses seeking to complete final submissions for grants under a COVID-19 relief fund.

The deadline for the Main Street Relief Fund is Friday at 11:59 p.m.

Staff at the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration will be available until the deadline is up.

The staff of the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery is also extending outreach.

Applicants in need of assistance are asked to call the DRA at (603) 230-5000.

- NHPR staff

Sununu: 'Stay At Home' Order Will Lift June 15

Update: Thursday, June 11, 3:27 p.m.

New Hampshire’s Stay At Home order will expire June 15, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday. At that point, Sununu said, the state will transition to a “Safer At Home” advisory and people will once again be permitted to gather in groups of 10 or more, if they choose.

Gyms, racetracks, charitable gaming facilities, libraries and funeral homes will be among the industries allowed to reopen, with modifications, starting June 15. 

Additionally, Sununu said the state is aiming to allow indoor movie theaters, amusement parks, performing arts venues and adult day centers to reopen June 29, with some restrictions. More details on the reopening rules can be found on the state’s Stay At Home 2.0 website

After these reopening measures take effect, Sununu said, the state will lift distinctions between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses when it comes to COVID-19 reopening regulations. 

- NHPR Staff

N.H. Launching New Relief Fund for Renters

While the governor outlined plans to return to some sense of normalcy, he still cautioned that people need to remain vigilant about protective measures and New Hampshire is likely to see a second surge of COVID-19 in months ahead.

Additional relief funding is coming to New Hampshire’s renters, homeless shelters, broadband infrastructure, chambers of commerce and private higher education institutions, Gov. Chris Sununu announced at a press conference Thursday.

Using money from the CARES Act, the state is launching a $35 million Housing Relief Fund targeted to renters which will support one-time grants for households that have lost income or otherwise incurred extra expenses due to COVID-19, as well as a short-term rental assistance program. Sununu said he hopes this offers an “offramp” to renters as the state lifts the moratorium on evictions that went into effect early on in New Hampshire’s COVID-19 crisis.

In addition to this extra relief funding, Sununu said the state will give tenants 30 days — rather than the seven typically allowed — to vacate a home after an eviction.

Beyond the housing relief funding, Sununu said the state will also distribute $50 million in additional relief funding to extend broadband access, $15 million to support homeless shelters, $2 million to local chambers of commerce and $10 million to private colleges and universities.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. reports 7 additional deaths, 54 new cases

Update: Wednesday, June 10, 6:37 p.m.

Seven additional Granite Staters have died from the coronavirus.

State health officials say six of the residents were from Hillsborough County, with one resident being from Rockingham County. All but one were 60 years old or older. 

The state reported 54 new cases, which brings the total confirmed cases in New Hampshire to 5,178. Four of the new cases are hospitalized.

To date, 500 people in the state have required hospital care at some point since the coronavirus pandemic reached New Hampshire in early March. That is 10 percent of the total cases.

- NHPR Staff

Amtrak to reopen some train runs

Update: Wednesday, June 10, 1:09 p.m.

Starting on Monday, June 15, the Amtrak Downeaster will resume limited service.

The commuter train will operate only one southbound line in the morning, and one northbound train departing from Boston at 5 p.m. Before the pandemic, the Downeaster ran five daily trains in each direction.

Capacity on the train, which makes three stops in New Hampshire, will be limited to 50 percent.

 Passengers will be required to wear masks while boarding and moving around the train, though not while seated.

- Todd Bookman

SNHU extends remote learning for campus students

Update: Wednesday, June 10, 12:10 p.m.

Southern New Hampshire University announced today it is extending remote learning for on-campus students through the fall of 2020.

SNHU says it will reduce the campus tuition to match the online rate for remote instruction.

"Public health guidelines still say social distancing is our best way to slow the spread of the virus, and welcoming back thousands of students from around the world would put the health of our students, staff, faculty, and the greater Manchester and Hooksett communities at risk," SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said in a news release.

The university's on-campus head count is 3,000 students.

- NHPR Staff

Social Distance: House to meet at UNH arena

Update: Wednesday, June 10, 8:08 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu issued his 50th emergency order last night. It was drafted at the request of the Speaker of the House, Steve Shurtleff, and it ensures mileage reimbursement for state representatives who will travel to Durham, not Concord, when the full 400-seat House of Representatives meets on Thursday.

The House is meeting at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center Arena in an effort to maintain social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The emergency order gives state reps "the ability to receive reimbursements for actual travel expenses incurred for trips to and from a member's home to the Whittemore Center" in Durham.

- NHPR Staff

Chan: Data shows improving trends

 Update: 6:49 p.m.

Dr. Ben Chan, New Hampshire's state epidemiologist, says there are promising trends in the state's public health data. He said the number of hospitalizations continues to decrease, and the number of positive tests are declining.

Over the past week, New Hampshire is at 2-3 percent of tests returning positive, he said.

“This shows ongoing, we believe, decrease in community transmission, but it’s important still for all of us to continue to take precautions to try to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Even though the numbers have improved, Chan said residents should continue to wear cloth face coverings when out in public and maintains social distancing.

A Milestone

Wednesday, June 10, marks the 100th day since New Hampshire announced its first positive COVID-19 case.

Gov. Chris Sununu brought the milestone up during a news conference in Concord. “It almost seems like a hundred years, but it’s only been a hundred days,” he said.

He said there continue to be positive trends as the state works to lift restrictions imposed under the state’s emergency order.

The state’s stay-at-home order will likely sunset on June 15, but the state of emergency will remain in place, Sununu has said.

“I’ve always said there’s a second surge coming. I hope I’m dead wrong. I really do. But we are planning for a significant second surge. Whether it’s in - it could be August, but I’m thinking in the September or October range. We all have to be prepared for that potentially.”

- Dan Tuohy

N.H. working on allowing visitors to some nursing homes

Update: Tuesday, June 9, 4:11 p.m.

The state is looking into reopening nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for some visitation.

A group of public health experts are working on guidelines that would permit nursing homes to arrange for outdoor visits between residents and their loved ones. No other information is yet available.

Nursing homes have been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in New Hampshire, accounting for approximately 80% of all fatalities.

On Tuesday, state health officials announced eight additional deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the total fatalities to 294. Six of the eight deaths were residents at long-term care facilities, said Dr. Ben Chan, New Hampshire's state epidemiologist.

The state also announced 53 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 5,100 residents have now tested positive.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who himself received a coronavirus test this week, encouraged anyone interested in getting a test to do so.

- Todd Bookman

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New mobile testing site to open in Manchester

Update: Monday, June 8, 3:45 p.m.

Manchester will be opening up a mobile COVID-19 testing site at the intersection of Union and Spruce Streets this week. The site was created in partnership with several community organizations, including Centro Latino, Hope Tabernacle, and the Granite State Organizing Project.

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The site will be open for one day – this Thursday – but Sarah Jane Knoy, Executive Director of the GSOP, says if there’s enough demand they’ll try to do it every week.

“We want to make sure that this community that is traditionally underserved gets all the testing that they need,” she says.

There will be Spanish interpreters at the site, and organizers say they’re looking into having Arabic, Swahili, and French interpreters as well. The testing will be free and available by appointment only.

- Alex McOwen

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Hotels reopen in New Hampshire

Update: Sunday, June 7, 3:25 p.m.

Hotel managers across New Hampshire say they had a busy reopening weekend. As of Friday, the state’s hotels, motels, and other lodgings are now able to resume operations with increased safety precautions and limited capacity.

Molly Rice, general manager of the Woodstock Inn Brewery in North Woodstock says they had 15 rooms booked this weekend.

“All the guests were like super happy just to be out of their house you know and to be here having dinner having breakfast, it was great to see people again,” Rice says.

Under the state’s reopening guidelines, all hotel common areas are closed and elevators will be limited to one party at a time. Out-of-state guests will be required to sign a document attesting that they’ve remained at a home for at least 14 days before arriving in New Hampshire.

- Alex McOwen

Protections for New Hampshire renters set to expire

Update: Sunday, June 7, 2:30 p.m.

Protections for renters during coronavirus will end when New Hampshire's state of emergency expires. Governor Chris Sununu announced his fourth extension of that order last week. It's now currently set to end June 26.

Jeff Goodrich is an attorney at the Legal Advice and Referral Center based in Concord. He says one place people facing an eviction can go for help is their municipal welfare office.

“That’s probably the first place you want to go, if you have an eviction notice for rent, have that for the welfare officer for bringing the rent current,” he says.

Goodrich says under state law, welfare offices have an obligation to help people meet those payments if they’re facing an eviction.

- Daniela Allee

5 more Granite Staters have died from COVID-19

Update: Saturday, June 6, 4:05 p.m.

Five more New Hampshire residents have died from the coronavirus. State health officials announced Saturday that all five people were 60 or older and from Hillsborough County. The number of Granite Staters who have now died from COVID-19 is now 283.

New Hampshire reports 74 new positive test results, which brings the total number of cases to 5,019. An estimated 66 percent of those have recovered, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Eleven of the new cases required hospitalization. To date, 487 people, or 10 percent of the total cases, have required hospital care at some point after being infected.

- NHPR Staff

More details offered on fund for small businesses in N.H.

Update: Saturday, June 6, 9:00 a.m.

After a week's delay, the state on Friday announced additional details about a $400 million fund aimed at small and mid-sized businesses.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the state received more than 13,000 pre-applications for unrestricted grants. Every applicant will now be sent a short follow up form that is due by next Friday, June 12. Sununu says the aim is to make the program seamless.

“We feel very confident. It should be a very successful program to allow folks to get some basic funds in to pay rent or mortgage, utilities, or whatever they need to do to keep those businesses floating and thriving.”

Given the large number of applicants, no entity will receive more than $350,000 in aid. Every business that qualified will receive some level of funding.

- Todd Bookman

New guidance for restaurants, golf, camps, and weddings

Update: Friday, June 5, 3:25 p.m.

New Hampshire will allow indoor dining and wedding receptions to open starting June 15, under new guidance announced Friday by Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu outlined additional steps to reopen businesses and activities that were shut down in his previous emergency orders in response to coronavirus.

The guidelines updated Friday include:

Restaurants were allowed to serve outdoor dining customers starting May 18. The next step, on June 15, will allow for indoor dining to resume. Read the latest restaurant guidance.

Sununu said he’s taking a geographic approach based on where most of the COVID-19 cases have been identified - in the southern tier.

To that end, restaurants in Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties can open June 15 at 50 percent of their indoor capacity. Restaurants in the remaining counties can reopen indoor seating June 15 at 100 percent capacity. Social distancing guidelines for the businesses remain in place.

Wedding reception guidance was also released Friday. For post-weddding receptions and events, occupancy must be limited 5o percent for facilities, tables limited to six people, and dancing within 6 feet of another person is discouraged, with the exception of family members and people from the same household.

Story: Restaurants can soon open for indoor seating; wedding receptions to resume

The state's stay-at-home order is in effect until June 15. At that time, Sununu says, "It is our intent to allow the stay-at-home order to sunset."

The governor said each component of the new guidance includes maintaining social distancing and practicing proper hygiene to limit possible transmission of the virus.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. Reports 5 Additional Deaths, 80 New COVID-19 Cases

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced five additional deaths Friday due to the coronavirus. Four of the residents were from long-term care facilities.

Nearly a Quarter of Nursing Homes in N.H. Impacted by Coronavirus

She announced 80 new cases, which brings the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 4,953. 

- NHPR Staff

Sununu to discuss further guidance for reopening N.H.'s economy

Update: Friday, June 5, 2:01 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu will outline additional updates to New Hampshire's emergency orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference Friday at 3 p.m. 

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The governor's stay-at-home order was extended previously to June 15. In recent weeks, a task force has continued to review various sectors and industries for reopening guidelines.

Sununu announces phase 2 of seacoast beach reopening

Update: Friday, June 5, 11:01 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu has adjusted his emergency order to further reopen New Hampshire's seacoast beaches. He announced Friday that the next phase of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic would allow for sunbathing and other traditional beach activities.

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It takes effect immediately.

The state's seacoast beaches reopened Monday, June 1, but only for "active recreation," such as walking, running, swimming, and surfing. With Friday's adjustment, beachgoers are still advised to maintain social distancing of 6 feet from other groups.

Parking restrictions remain in place for state parks, and parking is still prohibited along Route 1a in Seacoast communities.

- NHPR Staff

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N.H. offers testing to any resident

Update: Thursday, June 4, 11:39 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu says increased coronavirus testing capacity means it’s time to “push the limit" on getting as many people as possible tested.

“Even if you are asymptomatic," he says, "having that information about folks about folks who may be asymptomatic knowing that there are a lot of individuals out there who test positive those folks test positive one that are asymptomatic, and making sure that iffolks are positive, making sure they are not carriers, unknowing carriers to loved ones or other folks in the community. It’s very very important.”

The state announced 47 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, and nine new COVID-19 related deaths. Six of the people who died were residents of long-term care facilities.

Almost 80 percent of New Hampshire’s 265 coronarvirus deaths are linked to long term care settings.

- Jason Moon

Sununu backs peaceful protest gatherings

Update: Thursday, June 4, 11:12 a.m.

Governor Sununu on Wednesday defended his support of the peaceful protests being held around New Hampshire, which remains under a stay-at-home order because of the pandemic.

Though gatherings of 10 or more people remain banned, thousands of people have attended numerous protests this week following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Sununu noted that he has not stopped other protests during the pandemic, including some aimed at him.

State tax revenues plummet during pandemic

Update: Wednesday, June 3, 4 p.m.

State tax collections came in 22 percent below target for the month of May as the coronavirus pandemic continues to constrict the economy. The $25 million shortfall leaves the state about $100 million behind forecasts for the fiscal year, which closes at the end of June.

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With hotels largely closed and restaurants limited to take-out or outdoor seating, collection of the Meals and Rooms Tax came in 58 percent below target.

Business tax collections were off by about 27 percent, though the Department of Revenue Administration says part of that shortfall is due to an emergency extension for filing returns, meaning some of this shortage will be collected in June.

Real estate transactions in New Hampshire slowed by 17 percent statewide, hurting the collection of the real estate transfer tax.

Tax receipts from the sale of tobacco and liquor in the state were largely on target for the month.

- Todd Bookman

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Long-term care homes still bearing burden of pandemic

Update: Wednesday, June 3, 3:25 p.m.

Dr. Ben Chan, New Hampshire's state epidemiologist, said the latest numbers continue to show the burden that COVID-19 has had on at-risk populations. Six of the nine new deaths reported Wednesday are from long-term care or congregate living homes, he said.

Of the total 265 COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire, as of June 3, close to 80 percent have been residents of long-term care facilities. More than 76,000 residents have now been tested for coronavirus. Chan says the state is averaging about 1,700 tests a day.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced that the state is expanding testing in the North Country. ClearChoiceMD and Littleton Regional Hospital have a new site on the grounds of the hospital. Residents may make an appointment, but one is not necessary.

The state allows anyone who wants a coronavirus test to now get one.

- Dan Tuohy

Crowds a challenge for contact tracing

Update: Wednesday, June 3, 10:52 a.m.

Manchester health officials say large gatherings like this weekend’s protests make it nearly impossible to conduct effective contact tracing.

The state of New Hampshire, and the cities of Manchester and Nashua all have teams investigating cases of COVID-19.

Phil Alexakos is the Chief Operating Officer of the Manchester Health Department. He says contact tracing is one of the city’s most effective tools in fighting the coronavirus.

“And so by having large events where things like close contact can happen, if you have cases there could potentially be a lot more exposure that is incubating and waiting to present itself.”

Alexakos says it’s important that people attending these events continue to practice social distancing and to wear face coverings.

If someone who attended a protest tests positive, the city will put out public messaging to alert anyone who may have been exposed.

- Alex McOwen

N.H. reports 11 additional deaths

Update: Tuesday, June 2, 6:52 p.m.

New Hampshire health officials announced 11 additional deaths due to the coronavirus on Tuesday. The deaths, all of whom were 60 or older, brings the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities to 256.

With 65 newly identified positive results, the overall caseload is now 4,749.

Six of the new cases required hospitalization. As of June 2, 97 Granite Staters are in the hospital receiving care for the virus.

- NHPR Staff

Just how accurate are antibody tests?

Update: Tuesday, June 2, 11:31 a.m.

Antibody testing could help determine whether someone has been infected with COVID-19 in the past. But public health officials are still unsure about whether an individual who has antibodies is immune to the virus.

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Antonia Altomare is an epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. She says available antibody tests are only accurate 50 percent of the time.

"Until we have a better test, it's going to be hard to know what to make of the results. As far as the research behind immunity, we're getting closer. I would say in the next weeks to month, we'll have a better sense of what that means."

Altomare says antibody testing could still be helpful for the state with regards to contact tracing and keeping track of the spread of the virus.

- Mary McIntyre

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Lawmakers want to study how nursing homes are handling COVID-19

Update: Tuesday, June 2, 11:21 a.m.

A state Senate committee voted unanimously Tuesday to study how New Hampshire nursing homes are handling COVID-19.

The study would look at testing, PPE, infection control policies, and staffing issues in light of COVID-19.

The committee decided against also looking into the fiscal health of nursing homes.

Senator Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, feared looking at homes’ finances would impede focusing on pressing safety issues.

“And it seems to me that it might prevent getting the information that we need in a timely fashion. So perhaps there is another way to get that information.”

In New Hampshire, residents of long-term care facilities account for more than 75% of the state’s 245 COVID-19 deaths.

- Josh Rogers

Inland beaches open

Update: Tuesday, June 2, 10:59 a.m.

New Hampshire has opened inland beaches at state parks, but for walking or passing through only.

Inland beaches are narrow and don’t allow for proper social distancing as a seacoast beach would, according to the division of parks and recreation.

State officials say for the most part, park employees haven’t seen the crowds that typically gather at inland beaches in the summer months.

State has tested at all N.H. nursing homes

Update: Monday, June 1, 4:45 p.m. 

New Hampshire has now tested for COVID-19 at all of the state's nursing homes. Completing those tests, which took weeks, was a precondition for the launch of long-term care surveillance testing, a method the state hopes will give it a better handle on how the coronavirus is moving through nursing homes.

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"So what that is, is 10 percent of residents in nursing homes and all staff tested between seven and twelve days with the hope that the average is ten,” says Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.

About 40 percent of New Hampshire’s recent new cases of COVID-19 are tied to long term care facilities, as are more than 75 percent of the state’s deaths.

Overall, the coronavirus has killed 1.5 percent of the residents who live in long term care facilities in New Hampshire.

- Josh Rogers

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N.H. beaches, some business to reopen today

Update: Monday, June 1, 6:55 a.m.

Seacoast beaches are officially open today, but only for visitors who remain in motion.

The governor's reopening plan allows for swimming, running, walking, surfing - but you can't spread out a blanket or eat a picnic lunch on the beach yet. State-owned parking lots are limited to 50 percent capacity.

The state advises any beach goers to maintain social distancing and limit groups to ten people or fewer.

Tattoo shops, personal care businesses can reopen

New Hampshire tattoo shops, massage therapists and some other personal care businesses can open their doors today as long as they follow state public health restrictions.

Michaela Clarke with Midnight Moon Tattoo in Meredith says she and her colleagues are excited to get back to work. They've decided to implement extra precautions like changing into a different set of clothes when they arrive at the studio.

”And then when they leave the studio they change out of their clothing, to wear their home clothing just to lessen any chance of spread,” she says.

Small fitness classes like yoga and martial arts are also allowed to restart today - but the state requires gyms to remain closed to other uses.

- Lauren Chooljian

3 additional deaths, 106 new cases

Update: Sunday, May 31, 7:30 p.m.

State health officials announced three additional deaths from coronavirus on Sunday, which brings the total number of deaths from the virus in New Hampshire to 245.

The residents were all 60 years old or older. One was a male resident of Hillsborough County, two were residents of Rockingham County, one man and one woman.

There were 106 new positive test results Sunday. The total number of confirmed cases in the state now stands at 4,651.

Explore the Data: Tracking COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

- NHPR Staff

4 additional deaths, 55 new cases, 9 new hospitalizations

Update: Saturday, May 30, 7:01 p.m.

State health officials announced four additional deaths from coronavirus on Saturday, which brings the total number of deaths from the virus in New Hampshire to 242.

The residents were all 60 or older and from Hillsborough County. They were two men and two women. 

There were 55 new positive test results Saturday. The total number of confirmed cases is 4,545, of which 2,940, or 65 percent, have recovered, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Nine of the new cases required hospitalization. Currental total hospitalizations are now 107.

- NHPR Staff

Hotels reopen June 5; places of worship may proceed with in-person services

Update: Friday, May 29, 3:19 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu is extending New Hampshire's stay-at-home order until June 15, while issuing new guidelines that allow houses of worship, hotels, and day camps to reopen. The governor's updates Friday include:

  • Allowing larger, in-person religious services to resume immediately, with a 40 percent occupancy limit in houses of worship, with physically distancing.
  • Behind-the-wheel driver's education courses may resume.
  • Day camps may open June 22.
  • Hotels and short-term rentals can resume June 5. And hotels and related businesses can begin taking reservations, with the check-in date being June 5. Hotels and inns with fewer than 20 rooms can rent out at full capacity. Those with more than 20 rooms are required to limit occupancy at 50 percent.

Sununu says any out-of-state person staying at a New Hampshire hotel or lodging place after June 5 must self-attest they have stayed at their home, only leaving for essential purposes, for the previous 14 days.

The governor also said the plan is to allow overnight camps to reopen on June 28.  He said the state is still working on guidelines for opening of overnight camps, with an announcement likely in early June.

Any N.H. Residents Can Now Get a COVID-19 Test

Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the N.H. Dep. of Health and Human Services.
Credit Josh Rogers / NHPR

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced Friday that any resident of New Hampshire, regardless of whether they have a symptom of coronavirus, can get tested at one of the state's fixed testing sites. See the state's testing guidance webpage.

"Anyone who wants a test can get a test," she said.

She said the state is encouraging people to get out and get tested, with requesting and scheduling tests via the portal on the state's COVID-19 website.

Previously, the state had expanded testing eligibility, with most recently allowing testing for anyone over 60, anyone showing symptoms, at-risk populations with underlying health conditions, health care workers and child care workers, and anyone living in a household with anyone in any of those categories. 

New Hampshire has now tested more than 70,000 residents. 

CVS is offering drive-through testing at five locations in New Hampshire. The participating CVS locations are pharmacies in Concord, Hampton, Hooksett, Nashua.

In its latest health update, the state also announced six additional deaths and 107 new cases of coronavirus. The six deaths were residents all over 60 and all were associated with long-term care facilities, Shibinette said.

Shibinette reported a new outbreak. Mount Carmel Nursing and Rehab in Manchester had 31 residents and one staff member test positive for COVID-19. 

CMC, Elliot identify clusters

Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital in Manchester announced patient clusters, which remain under investigation. CMC said two asymptomatic patients from the same unit tested positive earlier this week after being tested for placement in a long-term care facilities. The hospital then tested all patients from that unit, and more than 600 employees, and found seven patients and seven staff members tested positive.

At The Elliot, five patients on the geriatric psychiatric unit tested positive. The hospital said it is currently testing remaining patients and staff on the unit.

- NHPR Staff

Find a COVID-19 testing location in N.H.

Schools can start accessing CARES funding

Update: Friday, May 29, 2:50 p.m.

New Hampshire school districts can begin to access federal relief aid next week.

The money, which comes through the CARES Act passed in March, totals $37 million.

It's been on hold, following confusion over guidance from the federal Department of Education to send a greater share of this money to private schools than originally expected.

The New Hampshire Department of Education says it's still awaiting final guidance on how much of the money should go to private schools. But in the meantime, districts can access a majority of their funds for public schools.

The CARES money can be used to cover costs incurred during the pandemic, including special ed services, technology to help students with remote learning, and summer programs.

- Sarah Gibson

Dartmouth latest college to face proposed class action lawsuit

Update: Friday, May 29, 12:01 p.m.

Dartmouth College is facing a proposed class action lawsuit, after a parent sued, seeking partial refund on his son’s tuition after in-person classes were canceled in March because of the pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, says that Dartmouth students did not receive the same quality education while learning remotely as they would have in-person, while still paying full tuition.

The suit asks for up to $5 million in damages for members of the class, and argues that Dartmouth breached contract and garnered “unjust enrichment.”

Southern New Hampshire University is facing a similar lawsuit.

According to the Student Conduct Institute, there are at least similar 91 pending class action lawsuits against universities and colleges.

- Daniela Allee

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Deadline day for Main Street Relief Fund

Update: Friday, May 29, 11:01 a.m.

Friday, May 29, is the last day for New Hampshire businesses to submit what’s being called a mandatory pre-application for a coronavirus relief fund.

The state is setting aside $400 million of its federal aid for grants to small and mid-size businesses.

The aid will be distributed based on a formula the state hasn’t released yet. All businesses that qualify will receive some level of funding.

-NHPR Staff

AG won't pursue case against Groveton racetrack

Update: Friday, May 29, 9:59 a.m.

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office says it will not pursue any action against a Groveton racetrack for defying ongoing stay at home restrictions.

Riverside Speedway and Adventure Park drew the attention of state officials after it hosted spectators and drivers for a race last weekend. Current emergency orders prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people and also prohibit race tracks, specifically, from operating at this time.

The AG's office said the track agreed to not hold another race this coming weekend. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Riverside's management said they will be open this weekend, just not for racing.

- Casey McDermott

9 additional deaths reported in N.H.

Update: Thursday, May 28, 7:21 p.m.

State health officials reported nine additional deaths and 101 new coronavirus cases Thursday. 

The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now 232.

Go Deeper: Explore the COVID-19 Data in New Hampshire

Eight of the deaths are residents of Hillsborough County, with six being 60 or older, and two male residents younger than 60. A man from Rockingham County, who was 60 or older, also died.

New Hampshire's confirmed cases climbed to 4,386.

Twelve of the newly identified cases required hospitalization. There are 110 people in the hospital for COVID-19 complications, as of May 28.

- NHPR Staff

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Health experts: Keep up precautions to avoid a summer spike

Update: Thursday, May 28, 4:15 p.m.

A top New Hampshire health official says the state could be vulnerable to a resurgence of COVID-19 this summer if people do not continue to take precautions that have helped to slow the virus in recent months.

Speaking on NHPR’s The Exchange, Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Talbot said even she is feeling some level of fatigue from the public health restrictions, but now is not the time to loosen up.

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“How about we see who can get the funniest tan this summer because you’re wearing a mask? So everybody’s going to have tan foreheads … Like really, I feel like we need a campaign where we invigorate, we empower one another, to keep up this momentum or we will see this summer spike.”

To keep preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the summer, Talbot encouraged people to continue to wear face masks when in public, as long as they don’t have a medical condition that makes it difficult, and to practice social distancing and hand hygiene.

- Casey McDermott

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Hampton Beach section of Ocean Boulevard now closed

Update: Thursday, May 28, 3:46 p.m.

The northbound stretch of Route 1A in Hampton Beach is closed until Sept. 7.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A nearly mile stretch of Ocean Boulevard at Hampton Beach is now closed to vehicular traffic, as the town and state prepare for a June 1st reopening of beaches under Governor Sununu's revised executive order.

The Ocean Boulevard "strip" near the beach and boardwalk will be a long pedestrian corridor with the intent of helping social distancing amid the pandemic.

N.H. Department of Transportation crews have rerouted the northbound traffic to turn at O Street and then proceed north on Ashworth Avenue, which is a two-way road until the northbound traffic lane is separated at Nudd Avenue - a street near the Ashworth by the Sea. Click here for the NHDOT map of the traffic reconfiguration.

- NHPR Staff

Tallying up federal funds to N.H.

Update: Thursday, May 28, 3:09 p.m.

While Governor Sununu is working to spend $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding -- the latest numbers show he has more than $400 million left -- that pot of aid is only a fraction of the COVID-related money that has made its way to New Hampshire.

Between the CARES Act, federal loans to small businesses, enhanced unemployment benefits, aid to schools and hospitals, and other programs, Legislative Budget Assistant Michael Kane told lawmakers today the total dollar amount is far larger.

“You are almost close to $8 billion," he said.

Lawmakers also questioned state agency leaders during the hearing of the legislative Fiscal Committee.

They wanted more detail on how Governor Sununu selected the health care providers that he awarded emergency grants to in recent weeks. They also questioned why 5 percent of people who have sought COVID-related state unemployment benefits, roughly 5,000 people, have yet to receive them.

- Josh Rogers

Governor launches equity response team

Update: Thursday, May 28, 2:11 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu established a new task force Thursday that will develop a recommended strategy and plan to address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color in New Hampshire.

This comes after the Governor’s Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion had asked the governor earlier this month to establish a team to address the issue.

According to the most recent data from the state, Black and Latino residents are testing positive at higher rates than their share of the population. That follows national trends on who’s been most affected by the coronavirus.

Within 30 days, the new equity taskforce will recommend steps for the state to remedy the disparate impacts.

- Daniela Allee

N.H. closing 10 of 14 surge 'flex' sites

Update: Thursday, May 28, 10:26 a.m.

Starting next week, the state of New Hampshire will be closing 10 of 14 clinical "flex" sites established to handle any possible surge in coronavirus patients.  These alternative care sites increased the state's total bed capacity by about 1,600. But so far, none of them have been needed. For the past several weeks, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in New Hampshire has hovered around 100.

Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulous, who helped set up one of the sites at a Dartmouth College gym, says even though they're shutting down, they could have their site back up and running within two days if needed.

"I mean, we'll be ready to go in the fall if need be," he says. "It's not a real heavy lift for us to pull this off again."

The state plans to keep four sites in Durham, Littleton, Manchester, and Plymouth

The National Guard will help hospitals, communities and the state Department of Health and Human Services close up the remaining clinical sites.

DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette says hospitals have created surge space within their existing facilities, "should the demand for beds exceed the capacity in their facilities."

- NHPR Staff

First New Hampshire inmate tests positive for COVID-19

Update: Wednesday, May 27 3:00 p.m.  

A resident of a New Hampshire state prison has tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time. The male inmate was recently transferred into state custody from an out-of-state facility that had documented cases of COVID-19.

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Officials say the resident has had no contact with other inmates. Staff who interacted with him have worn personal protective equipment. The resident will remain in medical isolation until he tests negative for COVID-19 two times. After that, he'll be transferred to a housing unit at the prison.

The state Department of Corrections has previously had eleven staff members test positive for COVID-19. All have since recovered and returned to work.

- Alex McOwen

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Pharmacists can now test for COVID-19

Update: Wednesday, May 27 2:20 p.m. 

Pharmacists in New Hampshire can now administer COVID-19 tests, under a new executive order from Gov. Chris Sununu.

In the order, Sununu says this will increase the availability of coronavirus testing in the state. Pharmacists can give the tests if their pharmacy holds the appropriate certification and a laboratory license from the state.

Other pharmacies that want to offer the service may seek a waiver from the state health department if they meet other health and safety standards.

- Daniela Allee

State expands testing eligibility

Update: Tuesday, May 26, 4:20 p.m.

The state has expanded testing eligibility to assist organizations and employers, so that certain employees may request and receive a test for coronavirus.

"We’re opening up testing for employees who cannot avoid prolonged close contact with either peers or members of the general public,” said Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Testing eligibility categories include any resident showing symptoms, anyone with an underlying health condition, health care workers, child care workers, anyone over 60, and anyone who lives with a person in one of the at-risk populations.

Besides the state's nine fixed testing sites, Shibinette notes there are also eight ClearchoiceMD locations and 11 ConveninentMD locations, as well as hospitals across the state.

“There are so many options at this point for testing,” she says, “nobody should want testing and not have it.”

- NHPR Staff

Three new outbreaks at New Hampshire long-term care facilities

Update: Tuesday, May 26, 3:20 p.m.

The state has announced three new COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in New Hampshire. According to Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette, patients and staff have tested positive at All American Assisted Living in Londonderry, The Courville at Manchester, and the Kimi Nichols Center - a facility for adults with developmental disabilities - in Plaistow.

The newly identified positive results at the long-term care facilities:

  • Kimi Nichols: three residents and two staff
  • Courville at Manchester: six residents and six staff
  • All American in Londonderry: six residents and 11 staff

Long-term care facilities continue to be the epicenter of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state. Of four new deaths announced May 26, Shibinette said all were from nursing homes or long-term care centers.

- NHPR Staff

AG: Quiet weekend for coronavirus enforcement in N.H.

Update: Monday, May 25, 1:45 p.m.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati says except for unauthorized auto racing with spectators that took place at Riverside Speedway in Northumberland on Saturday – an incident that remains under investigation – Memorial Day weekend has been quiet, at least as far as the AG's involvement in enforcing COVID-19 standards goes.

“Well I can tell you that I haven’t had any other calls this weekend, with regards to law enforcement calling in to us on the COVID-19 law enforcement line, other that the matter in Northumberland," he told NHPR.

For many summer recreational businesses – including bike and canoe rental shops and mini golf – this weekend marked the first time they could reopen under new guidelines.

- Todd Bookman

Related: What's open and what's not in New Hampshire? Click or tap here to find out.

State's Catholic churches begin offering Communion

Update: Sunday, May 24, 5:30 p.m.

Catholics in New Hampshire were able to receive Communion for the first time in more than two months Sunday.

While churches remain closed for services, the Diocese of Manchester is allowing parishes to offer the Eucharist, as long as social social distancing and other guidelines are in practice.

Click here to read more of this story by NHPR's Todd Bookman

Manchester VA holding a virtual Memorial Day ceremony

Update: Sunday, May 24, 8:32 a.m.

For the first time in its history, the Veterans Affairs Manchester Healthcare System is not celebrating Memorial Day with a public gathering, but rather, a Facebook tribute.

Monday's ceremony will mirror its traditional service and is being prerecorded in alignment with the nation's efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The event will posted on VA Manchester Healthcare System's Facebook page and will include a wreath placed at an American flag, the playing of Taps, and a moment of silence.

N.H. State Veterans Cemetery

The Memorial Day ceremony traditionally held at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery is cancelled due to the state's emergency orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The State Veterans Cemetery remains open to visitors, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, and staff will be on site May 23-25.

- NHPR Staff

Memorial Day Weekend at Hampton Beach

4 additional deaths, 77 new COVID-19 cases

Update: Saturday, May 23, 4:41 p.m.

New Hampshire health officials announced four additional deaths and 77 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday.

The Department of Health and Human Services says all four were from Hillsborough County. Two men and one woman were 60 and older, while the fourth person to die was a male resident younger than 60.

The state has had 208 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Of the newly announced positive results, 11 residents are in the hospital. New Hampshire now has confirmed 4,089 cases of coronavirus. Of that number, 2,197, or 54 percent, have recovered from the virus.

The state continues to expand testing. Nearly 70,000 residents have been tested to date, with around 9,000 of those being antibody tests.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu seeks N.H. Guard activation extension

Update: Saturday, May 23, 11:50 a.m.

Governor Sununu is asking the Trump Administration to extend the activation of the New Hampshire National Guard.

The president previously approved the activation of 1,000 guard members through June 24.

In a letter to Trump, Sununu writes that the National Guard is helping to staff COVID-19 testing sites and distributing PPE as part of the response to the coronavirus.

The state is requesting 450 Guard members remain active through the end of September.

- NHPR Staff

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Sununu says he, not Trump, makes the call on church reopenings

Update: Friday, May 22, 4:50 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu says it's up to him -- and not President Trump -- to decide when churches will be allowed to reopen in New Hampshire.

Sununu made the comments Friday  in response to the president's demand that governors across the country reopen churches by this weekend. Trump said he would "override" governors who refused.

“It's the governor's decision. It's the governor's decision of course and that's why I think he said 'look when the CDC guidance comes out, take a look at the guidance and see what might be possible.' That's the approach we're going to take.”

Trump also said allowing state liquor stores to remain open, but not churches, was an injustice. Sununu disagreed, saying the two are completely different situations.

- Jason Moon

Manchester liquor store closes after worker tests positive

Update: Friday, May 22, 4:39 p.m.

A state liquor store in Manchester has been closed for deep cleaning after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Governor Chris Sununu confirmed the closure during a press conference on Friday. Sununu has faced criticism from some for keeping the state-run stores open throughout the pandemic while other retailers were forced to close.

Unlike when a state DMV employee tested positive, state health officials did not publicly announce the case at the liquor store until asked by reporters.

Sununu said the employee is self-isolating and that a contact tracing investigation is underway.

- Jason Moon

Seacoast beaches, personal care businesses reopen June 1

Update: Friday, May 22, 3:43 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday announced additional economic sectors to reopen on June 1, including personal care services and the state's seacoast beaches.

The governor highlighted the following areas:

  • Small group fitness classes and personal fitness training, such as yoga, zumba, and karate, where social distancing can be maintained. Guidance does not allow for general use of gym equipment at this time.
  • Small group youth and amateur sports practices are authorized under the guidance, effective immediately. Group sizes must be limited to 10 or less, and no competition or contact sports are allowed. Training and practice must occur outdoors.
  • Businesses in the personal care industry may reopen - acupuncture, massage therapists, and tattoo, tanning, and nail salon shops may open with requirements on social distancing and thorough sanitation.

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State beaches will reopen to active recreation only, such as walking, running, swimming and surfing. State parking lots will be limited to 50 percent capacity.

“Parking will be limited, to be sure,” Sununu said.

The state will also be closing down a section of Ocean Boulevard, from A Street to O Street, from June 1 to Labor Day. The northbound--and-southbound traffic will be redirected on Ashworth Avenue.

“We’re effectively making Ocean Boulevard a giant sidewalk, if you will,” Sununu said.

The governor also provided updated guidance for child care providers. Effective immediately, providers must, whenever possible, reduce group size to no more than 10 people, and keep the same groups of staff and children together.

The stay-at-home order remains in place, where gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. Sees Its First Case of Rare Childhood Syndrome Linked to COVID-19

Nashua requiring face masks worn in public

Update: Friday, May 22, 12:11 p.m.

The city of Nashua is now requiring residents to wear face masks in many public settings.

An ordinance passed Thursday night by the Nashua board of aldermen and backed by Mayor Jim Donchess requires employees and customers at all businesses to wear face masks.

The rule also applies to government buildings and even common areas at residential buildings with more than two apartment units.

Violations of the ordinance could be punished with a fine.

Nashua is believed to be the first city in the state to enact such an order.

- Jason Moon

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Child Care Workers Push Back On State's New Opening Guidelines

Update: Friday May 22, 8:30 a.m.

Many New Hampshire’s child care workers say the state’s new guidelines for reopening are impractical, citing concerns about wearing masks and maintaining social distance with young children.

UNH professor Kim Nesbitt, who studies early childhood development, said some of these concerns are valid, as hands-on learning is a critical part of childhood development.

“If we are doing a lot of independent interactions and not being able to engage with other people collaboratively, that is a potential that could have potential negative impacts on how well children are able to learn and develop in those environments,” Nesbitt said.

Gov. Chris Sununu said earlier this week that he’s considering revising the standards for child care centers set.

-Alex McOwen

N.H. announces 9 additional deaths

Update: Thursday, May 21, 7:45 p.m.

The state announced an additional nine deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 199.

Sixty-seven new cases were also confirmed, upping New Hampshire’s total to 3,935.

Of the deaths, all were residents of either Hillsborough or Rockingham County and over the age of 60, according to public health officials.

Six of the new cases had no identified risk factors, suggesting community transmission.

Eight of the new cases required hospitalization. To date, there have been 393 hospitalizations, or 10 percent of the total known cases. As of May 21, there were 97 hospitalizations. The state says 1,767 residents have recovered from COVID-19; the current cases are now 1,969. 

More than 62,000 tests have been conducted in the Granite State. Of that number, around 7,800 are antibody tests, according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.

- NHPR Staff

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Franklin Pierce University will reopen campus in fall

Update: Thursday, May 21, 6:30 p.m.

Franklin Pierce University will open its campus in August for in-person classes.

The Rindge-based college says it'll set up health and safety procedures to protect against COVID-19. Other new protocols for classes will ensure social distancing for the school's nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Franklin Pierce says those guidelines will be finalized in the coming weeks.

The University of New Hampshire has also said it will reopen its campus this fall, while maintaining some virtual learning.

- Daniela Allee

Reopening task force considers how to reopen hotels

Update: Thursday, May 21, 5:56 p.m.

New Hampshire is considering a different approach than its neighbors when it comes to allowing out-of-state residents back in its hotels and other lodging establishments.

Under a proposal submitted to a reopening task force Thursday, out-of-staters would have to attest to having quarantined at home for 14 days before coming to New Hampshire.

Maine and Vermont also have quarantine rules, but they will require such quarantines to happen within their borders.

- NHPR Staff

New Hampshire courts update on restrictions

State courts say the earliest they will reopen for in-person proceedings is now June 15, though that date could be pushed back.

Judges are still conducting hearings via telephone and video, but public access to courthouses is restricted.

- Todd Bookman

4 in 10 residents delayed medical care in the past month

Update: Thursday, May 21, 3 p.m.

The U.S. Census Bureau says 40 percent of surveyed adults in New Hampshire delayed getting medical care in the last four weeks.

The Bureau released the numbers this week in an effort to share data with lawmakers planning for coronavirus recovery.

The Bureau also says 44 percent of New Hampshire adults are in a household that saw a loss of income in the last two months.

That rate of income loss puts New Hampshire on par with the rest of New England.

- Sarah Gibson

Emergency order makes it easier for nurses to practice in N.H.

Update: Thursday, May 21, 11:10 a.m.

A new emergency order would make it easier for nurses who trained out of state to practice in New Hampshire.

The order by Governor Chris Sununu allows students in accredited nursing programs in other states to apply for a New Hampshire license.

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Lindsey Courtney is the interim director of the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification. She says there is a shortage of licensed nursing assistants in the state. And while this order doesn’t address that group specifically, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can still perform those tasks.

“This one is particularly important to the agency and to the board to ensure we meet the workforce requirements in the state," she says

- Daniela Allee

8,000 new jobless claims filed last week in N.H.

Update: Thursday, May 21, 10:21 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Labor says more than 8,000 initial unemployment claims were filed in New Hampshire last week, and that's down more than 1,500 from the previous week.

The latest number covers new claims through May 16th.

The number of new claims in a week peaked at 39,000 in early April and has since been declining.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu: No need to make masks mandatory in New Hampshire

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 6:25 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu says he sees no need to order people to wear masks in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky asked Sununu on Wednesday to follow the lead of neighboring Massachusetts in requiring people to don masks in public. 

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“We consulted with the department of public health - a very trusted source - looking at all the looking at all the different guidelines, the data, where we are today," Sununu said. "And we are not in a position to determine that a mandatory mask order is appropriate for the state at this time. So that is not going to happen right now.”

Sununu says he’ll be watching how Massachusetts' decision to open up ocean beaches plays out. He says prudence dictates keeping beaches here closed for now but that he expect to open them relatively soon.

- Josh Rogers

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DHMC to participate in COVID-19 clinical trial

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 6:10 p.m. 

Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced Wednesday it is participating in a clinical trial of a new treatment for severe cases of COVID-19. The drug Lenzilumab could help prevent an immune response to the virus called Cytokine Release Syndrome.

The syndrome is defined by an overactive immune response to the virus, which can damage organs and even cause death. The study will test the drug against a placebo on 238 patients nationwide. Results of the study are expected by September.

- Jason Moon

8 deaths, 149 new cases, 2 new outbreaks

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 3:30 p.m.

New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette on Wednesday announced eight additional COVID-19 deaths, with six of them at long-term care facilities.

The latest coronavirus update further highlighted the impact on nursing homes. The state has 149 new cases, and 51 of those were from a single testing event at one long-term care facility - Villa Crest Nursing and Retirement Center in Manchester.

Shibinette reported two new outbreaks at residential facilities. At Greenbriar Healthcare in Nashua, 10 residents have tested positive for the virus. At Community Bridges in Belmont, a facility for people with disabilities, two residents and four staff members tested positive.

As of May 20, about 28 percent of nursing homes in the Granite State have at least one COVID-19 case, according to Shibinette. In terms of deaths at long-term care centers, New Hampshire is at about 1 percent, compared to Massachusetts, with 5.6 percent, she said.

“Whether we are the best or the worst, every death is a tragedy," she said. "Every long-term care facility that gets affected is a tragedy not just for the residents, but the families and the staff that take care of those residents.”

Gov. Chris Sununu said the state will launch two more fixed testing sites, which will go live starting this weekend, in Keene and in Londonderry. The state now has nine fixed testing sites.

The state is also expanding testing criteria to include household members of people in high-risk populations, such as anyone older than 60 or a person with an underlying health condition.

Sununu said he will make a Friday announcement about additional areas of the economy to reopen in the weeks ahead. 

He added that more than 5,000 small businesses have applied for grants under a new $400 million Main Street Relief Fund. The prequalification form under that program must be completed by May 29.

- NHPR Staff

State close to having tested all nursing home residents

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 11:09 a.m.

New Hampshire is closing in on its goal to test all nursing home residents and staff for the coronavirus.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said May 6 that all nursing home residents would be tested within two weeks. A department spokesman said that process will be completed early next week, which would be a few days behind schedule.

The testing of all staff is expected to be completed by the end of next week, or early in the following week.

The state also plans to set up a sentinel surveillance system in which ten percent of the facilities will test ten percent of their residents each week.

- NHPR Staff

Seacoast beaches won't be open for Memorial Day weekend

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 a.m.

Governor Chris Sununu is insisting that New Hampshire beaches are not ready to open for Memorial Day weekend.

Sununu said Tuesday he is considering a task force recommendation to flex open beaches on June 1. He said while he wants to wait and see how nearby states make it work at their beaches, he remains concerned about visitors from those states coming to New Hampshire.

The governor has reopened some parts of the economy based on recommendations from health officials, but he's urging people to not let their guard down yet.

- Mary McIntyre

Some Outdoor Activities Get Green Light

Update: Monday, May 18, 7:45 p.m.

The state is permitting the resumption of more outdoor recreational activities, including bike rentals, mini-golf and paintball, under revised coronavirus guidelines.

The new rules allow outdoor activity in groups of 10 people or fewer, so long as staff members and customers wear face masks and meet other standards. The guidance, as outlined by Gov. Chris Sununu Monday, clears the way for bike, canoe and kayak rental operations to open. The same goes for outdoor driving and shooting ranges, paintball, hiking and fishing guide services, and some charter fishing boats.

Beaches, however, will remain closed, as will larger scale outdoor tourist attractions, like amusement and water parks and racetracks.

-Josh Rogers

Antibody tests indicate very small percentage of residents have been exposed to coronavirus

Update: Monday, May 18, 5:20 p.m.

State officials say new testing suggests a large percentage of New Hampshire residents have not yet been exposed to the novel coronavirus and haven’t developed any protection against it. The state has conducted 4,500 antibody tests over the past week, which detect if a person has had the coronavirus in the past.

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The test results reveal that only about three to four percent of New Hampshire residents have been exposed. But state epidemiologist Benjamin Chan says there’s still a lot that's unknown about this type of test.

“We still do not fully understand what a positive antibody test means for someone’s protection against infection or reinfection," Chan says. "Specifically, we don’t understand how long a person’s protection lasts for after they have been infected.”

Chan says even if someone tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies, they still need to take appropriate social distancing precautions. If not, state officials warn New Hampshire could be at risk for a second surge of the virus.

- Alex McOwen

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Recommendations could help summer camps reopen

Update: Monday, May 18, 5:15 p.m.

As summer nears, a group working to recommend plans for reopening the state's economy is weighing proposals for summer camps.

Chris Emond, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Central New Hampshire, represents camps on the Governor's Re-opening Task Force. He says under his plan, camps would follow the state's standard social distancing guidelines, but would still need some flexibility, like on mask wearing.

“Staff wearing masks all day in a summer day camp environment, in an overnight environment, is not really going to be practical. So it’s really where possible,” he says.

The plan also includes screening campers for symptoms upon arrival, and limiting staff members coming and going from overnight camps. The task force will vote tomorrow (Tuesday) on whether or not to approve these guidelines for camp reopenings.

- Alex McOwen

State moves to reopen some outdoor attractions; issues new guidance for childcare facilities

Updated Monday, May 18, 3:45 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu has announced that some outdoor attractions are now permitted to reopen in New Hampshire, including miniature golf courses, driving ranges, canoe and kayak rentals, outdoor shooting ranges, paintball, and equestrian facilities, among others. 

Sununu says these businesses are primarily  in outdoor settings at which ten or fewer people gather to engage in activities. The state has issued new guidance for these facilities to operate in a manner which aims to protects public health.

Sununu also announced new guidelines for childcare facilities to reopen in the state. The guidance includes the wearing of masks by all staff and parents dropping off kids, frequent supervised handwashing, and limiting of group and childcare room capacity. 

- NHPR Staff

Note: We will continue to update this developing story

Restaurants allowed to resume serving, though outdoor dining only

Updated: Monday, May 18, 1:00 p.m.

Penuche's in Manchester has picnic tables on the sidewalk spaced six feet apart, in preparation for outdoor dining allowed starting this week under the state's new stay-at-home order.
Credit Casey McDermott / NHPR

Starting today, restaurants across New Hampshire can start hosting customers for outdoor dining for the first time in nearly two months.

Restaurants have been limited to takeout, delivery and curbside pickup since mid-March, when Gov. Chris Sununu first issued his stay-at-home order.

Establishments wanting to open for diners need to practice social distancing measures by spacing out tables, and wait staff are required to wear face coverings or masks.

Indoor seating is still prohibited. In many cities, preparations have been underway, with seating and picnic tables on the sidewalk, all spaced six feet apart.

- NHPR Staff

Week in Review: N.H. scenes amid the pandemic

Update: Sunday, 10:11 a.m.

NHPR photos by Casey McDermott, Sean Hurley, Josh Rogers, and Dan Tuohy.

In the midst of a pandemic, a new Market Basket opens in Plymouth

12 additional deaths, 98 new cases

Update: Saturday, May 16, 5:37 p.m.

State health officials announced another 12 deaths due to COVID-19 on Saturday, increasing the number of residents who have died from coronavirus to 171.

Of the 12, only one resident, a male patient from Strafford County, was younger than 60 years old, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

It was unclear if any of the deaths were connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Those outbreaks have so far accounted for more than three-quarters of the state's recorded coronavirus deaths.

Ten of the deceased were from Hillsborough County, six men and four women. The other death was a woman from Rockingham County. Click here for a high-resolution map of cumulative town-by-town cases in N.H.

The update from New Hampshire's public health agency also reports 98 new cases, bringing the total to 3,556. Three of the new cases are residents under the age of 18. 

There were 12 new hospitalizations. To date, 347 people have required hospital care related to coronavirus since the pandemic began, which is 10 percent of the overall confirmed cases.

- NHPR Staff

UNH holds virtual commencement celebration

Update: Saturday, May 16, 4:30 p.m.

Credit UNH

With traditional graduations upended by the coronavirus, the University of New Hampshire opted for a virtual commencement on UNH's Facebook page on Saturday.

The school invited alumni, faculty and graduating seniors themselves to tune in and share well wishes for the class of 2020.

UNH will also hold separate online commencements for individual academic programs.

The state's public colleges have said they intend to resume in-person instruction in the fall.

They're also planning what they call "blended" learning options, with some virtual components. This could make classes more accessible to students who have concerns about returning to campus.

- Casey McDermott

Liquor commission has curbside pickup options at two busy outlets

Update: Saturday, May 16, 2:01 p.m.

The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission quietly rolled out curbside pickup options at two heavily trafficked retail stores this week.

Right now, the service is offered only on a limited basis at the liquor outlets on I-95 north in Hampton and I-93 north in Hooksett. Customers who want to use the curbside service must place an order online and schedule pickup at least a day in advance.

An agency spokesman said same-day pickup is not available. They say these two stores are doing curbside pickup as a pilot program to inform future decisions about whether to offer the service more widely. 

Governor Chris Sununu said in March that the state was considering curbside service at its liquor outlets. The stores have remained open throughout the stay-at-home order, despite safety concerns from some employees.  

- Casey McDermott 

UNH gives half of relief funds back to students

  Update: Saturday, May 16, 11:41 a.m.

The University of New Hampshire has doled out half of its federal coronavirus aid to students. The state's flagship university received $11.6 million from the federal stimulus, and was required to give half of it to students for expenses related to campus closures. 

A UNH spokeswoman says about 11,000 students were eligible for grants of between $250 and $700 apiece. It leaves the school with $5.8 million in unallocated federal funds. 

On Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu announced UNH and other public state and community colleges would get $15 million in COVID-19 relief money. The news arrived on the eve of UNH's virtual graduation ceremony today, Saturday, via Facebook.

-Annie Ropeik

N.H. expands testing capacity

Update: Saturday, May 16, 11:01 a.m.

New Hampshire is greatly expanding its testing capacity as the state seeks to reach another milestone in phased-in economic reopening with the start of outdoor dining Monday, May 18. Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette says the state is reaching a daily average of 2,000 tests.

The effort received a boost from the state's seventh fixed testing site, on Stickney Avenue in Concord, this past week. The state's other six fixed testing sites: Claremont, Lancaster, Milford, Plymouth, Tamworth, and Rochester.

The state also launched an online registration for individuals to request and schedule a test. The portal is for those who are showing COVID-19 symptoms and for people in at-risk groups, including those 60 and older, those with underlying health conditions, a person caring for an at-risk individual, and health care workers. The state's number for scheduling is 603-271-5980, and residents with coronavirus questions can call 2-1-1.

Find a location near you - Zoom in/out on our map to find a collection site:

- NHPR Staff

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State Reevaluating Use of Rapid Testing Machines

Update: Friday, May 15, 8:50 p.m.

The state's top health official said New Hampshire is reevaluating how it will use rapid testing machines produced by Abbott Laboratories in light of FDA findings that up to 15 percent of negative test results from the machines may be false.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said she couldn't say how many COVID-19 tests in New Hampshire had been carried out on the Abbot machines. But she said protocols for using the Abbott machines would be changing.

“Abbott can certainly be used to test for an easy positive,” Shibinette said, “but right now we have to develop our guidance around what’s the next step after you get a negative, because based on the FDA guidance there’s going to be a next step.”

Gov. Chris Sununu had hailed the arrival of New Hampshire’s 15 Abbot machines last month, but their use was hobbled from the start by a lack of supplies. Shibinette said the state had hoped the machines, which can turn around a COVID test in as little as 15 minutes, might be deployed in nursing homes, but said technical requirements made that infeasible.

-Josh Rogers

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