Coronavirus Update: 4th Person Dies In N.H.; Hospitals Adjust Mask Policy

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Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order is in effect until May 4. Read Emergency Order No. 17An exhibit outlines businesses deemed essential, and therefore exempt from closing.

4th death in New Hampshire, 48 new cases bring state's total to 415

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 9:00 p.m.

A fourth person has died of COVID-19 in New Hampshire. That news came on the day that 48 additional cases of the illness were identified in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 415.

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Credit NH DHHS

At a press conference Wednesday, state epidemiologist Ben Chan said the fourth person to die was an adult, but declined to provide further information about them. 

Fifty-nine of the patients in New Hampshire - or roughly 15 percent - have required hospitalization. 

The vast bulk of the state's cases are concentrated in the Manchester-Nashua region, and in towns along the south-east border with Massachusetts (see map, left).

But Chan cautioned that COVID-19 remains “widespread and present in our whole state.” He said the virus may be in New Hampshire for many more months and warned against becoming complacent.

Less than a week since the state's stay-at-home order took effect, Chan said he understands people might be getting restless. But, he said, it's difficult to predict how a pandemic will proceed, and that the coronavirus could be with us for weeks or months to come.

"We understand the difficulties that this outbreak is causing people and families," Chan said, "But it is important not to become complacent in our measures around social distancing.

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Sununu orders emergency funding for victims of sexual and domestic violence, child abuse

Governor Chris Sununu announced two new orders to support some of the state's most vulnerable residents at Wednesday's press conference, victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse. 

As families are staying home as part of the state's effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, officials fear incidents of abuse are going unreported.

"We know that calls to law enforcement are down, we know that reporting of child abuse is down," Sununu said at Wednesday's press conference. "What is not down is the actual instance of occurrence."

Sununu has ordered $600,000 in emergency funding to support sexual and domestic violence crisis centers, as well as $2 million in funding to boost protections for children in the state. Sununu said that some part-time staff members at DCYF will be made full time, and that the age cap for children served by the state's "Strength to Succeed" program will be increased from 6-years-old to 10-years-old.

Sununu encouraged all residents of the state to act as "mandatory reporters" for domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. domestic violence hotline: 1 (800) 277-5570

N.H. child abuse hotline: 1 (800) 894-5533 or

Three hospitals requiring staff to wear masks at all times

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 4:10 p.m.

Three New Hampshire hospitals are now requiring all staff who work in patient care areas to wear a mask at all times.

The decision by the Hospital Corporation of America affects Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, and Parkland Medical Center in New Hampshire.

Dr. David Itkin is Chief of Infectious Disease at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He says the decision was driven in part by emerging evidence that suggests some people with COVID-19 are spreading the virus before they begin to show symptoms.

"If somebody is incubating the virus and not yet symptomatic and working, the presence of the mask will limit the amount of virus that they shed into the environment," Itkin says.

The move comes as the CDC is reportedly considering changing its recommendations over whether the general public should use masks.

- Jason Moon

Coronavirus outbreak at Crotched Mountain School

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 3:20 p.m.

The Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield is battling an outbreak of COVID-19 on its campus that has killed one resident and infected five others. The facility, which offers residential and day programs for people living with disabilities, says the outbreak is traced to a group home on its campus.

So far, three residents and three staff members have tested positive.

The resident who died on March 29 was a 46-year old male with significant disabilities and a history of respiratory problems, according to the school.

“The Crotched Mountain family mourns the loss of one of our residents,” said Ned Olney, president and CEO of Crotched Mountain Foundation in a statement. “As an individual with a challenging medical profile he was particularly susceptible to the insidiousness of this virus. Together we grieve and remain vigilant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

State health officials are working with the facility as it implements a quarantine on the residence hall.

Visitation is currently prohibited, and meals are being served in rooms, rather than the cafeteria. It isn’t clear why the Department of Health and Human Service’s town-by-town map of coronavirus cases shows zero for Greenfield.

Crotched Mountain says it is facing a dwindling supply of personal protective equipment, and is requesting donations from the public.

The picturesque mountain-top school opened in 1953. It currently serves 66 residents on its campus and employs approximately 200 people.

In 2017, Crotched Mountain shuttered its medical facility citing financial strain.

(This story will be updates as more information is made available.)

- Todd Bookman

Drive-through test site opens at Pease Tradeport

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 2:05 p.m.  

A new drive-through testing site for COVID-19 opens today (Wednesday, April 1) at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.

Right now, the site will only take patients referred by a telehealth provider with the urgent care chain Convenient MD. The company worked with the state and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to set up the testing facility.

Anthem is currently covering all coronavirus testing costs for its members.

A Convenient MD spokesman says the testing site could expand to take referrals from outside the company if more testing supplies and protective gear become available.

- Annie Ropeik

Shaheen asks for expedited test results for first responders

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 1:50 p.m.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen says she's asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to expedite COVID-19 test results for first responders.

Police, firefighters or emergency medical technicians who come into contact with potential cases have to quarantine for 14 days. Senator Shaheen says this has been a huge challenge for emergency workers across New Hampshire.

"Prioritize those tests, let’s get those tests back and find out if those people really tested positive. If they did, then we know we have to quarantine the first responders. But if they didn’t then we don’t need to take first responders off the job for that long a period of time," she said.

Nine firefighters in Concord were placed under quarantine earlier this week after coming into contact with a potential case of COVID-19. The firefighters were released Wednesday after the patient received a negative test result.

- Alex McOwen

Dartmouth-Hitchcock to test COVID-19 treatment

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 11:50 a.m.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is set to begin testing a potential treatment for COVID-19. The hospital is one of nearly hundred sites involved in the clinical trials worldwide.

Researchers are testing an intravenous anti-viral medication that was used during the West African Ebola outbreak several years ago. The drug has also shown promise in treating diseases caused by other coronaviruses, such as SARS.

The medication will be tested in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Researchers will test 5- and 10-day courses of the medication in people with severe and moderate infections.

Across the globe, about a thousand patients are participating in the study. Researchers say this kind of trial typically takes weeks to organize. Dartmouth-Hitchcock got ready for theirs in six days, including by fitting personal protective equipment for around two dozen nurses who’ll administer the drug to patients.

- Annie Ropeik

N.H. jails release inmates to help prevent coronavirus spread

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 11:45 a.m.

Correctional facilities across the state are releasing some inmates accused or convicted of non-violent crimes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing is nearly impossible to maintain in jails or prisons, and some inmates could be at risk for serious or life-threatening symptoms from the coronavirus.

On NHPR's The Exchange this morning (Wednesday, April 1), Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Grey said his jail population is the lowest it's been in 20 years after releasing inmates. Grey says his officers are still monitoring many of those who have been released, sometimes electronically.

Read more on this story here

-Mary McIntyre

53 new cases reported; N.H. total climbs to 367

Update: Tuesday, March 31, 6:51 p.m.

The state announced 53 additional people in New Hampshire have tested positive for coronavirus. The new statistics brings the total number of cases to 367.

One of the 53 people is a male under 18, and four of the new cases were hospitalized. The Department of Health and Human Services reports 24 of the new cases have no identified risk factors, indicating community-based transmission continues to increase in New Hampshire.

Of the 367 confirmed cases, 56, or 15%, have recovered. Another 1,250 people are being monitored in the state.

- NHPR Staff

MTA suspends regular bus service

Update: Tuesday, March 31, 5:11 p.m.

Manchester is suspending its regular public bus service in response to the coronavirus. Starting Wednesday, April 1, the Manchester Transit Authority will no longer run public buses on its fixed route.

Passengers needing transportation for essential travel can call 603-623-8801 to book a trip with the MTA from 5:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

The MTA says ridership has fallen by around 70% during the pandemic, and many of its buses were riding empty. 

The change is in effect until May 4.

- Sarah Gibson

COAST Suspends Its Bus Service

The Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation has decided to suspend all fixed bus routes until May 4.

COAST says it will work with customers to reimburse those who already purchased a monthly pass for April, and it says it will continue to operate paratransit services for individuals who qualify.

New applicants for those services will continue to have their applications reviewed as normal.

- Daniela Allee

State gives 10% raise to Liquor Store workers

Update: Tuesday, March 31, 4:31 p.m.

The state is temporarily giving a 10% wage increase to N.H. State Liquor Store employees.

In an executive order announced Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu cites the liquor stores as an essential business that provides critical revenue for state coffers.

Due to a staffing shortage, the state's 77 retail stores are operating under reduced hours. A notice on the Liquor Commission's website says the agency is currently seeking part-time workers.

Under the emergency order, store managers, clerks and laborers will receive a 10% wage increase throughout the duration of the state of emergency, dating back to March 13.

Sununu says closing the liquor stores would only further jeopardize public health, as it would force residents to travel to other states to obtain alcohol.

- Todd Bookman

Child care providers can apply to seek emergency designation

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is accepting applications from child care providers seeking designation as emergency child care programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DHHS is partnering with the Charitable Foundation to provide $4 million in federal funding for an Emergency Child Care Collaborative. The collaborative will provide emergency child care for parents providing essential services during COVID-19 such as health care workers.

Child care programs that are granted emergency designation will be eligible for payments to cover additional staff and operating costs.

- Alex McOwen

State gets $82 million for schools from federal stimulus funds

Update: Tuesday, March 31, 1:35 p.m.

New Hampshire is receiving over $82 million in federal funds to help K through 12 schools and colleges during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money is part of "CARES" act, which President Trump signed into law on Friday.

About half the aid will go to the state department of education, to be distributed as grants to individual school districts. Colleges and universities with a high percentage of low-income students will get about $36 million - much of that will go to students in the form of emergency financial aid.

- Sarah Gibson

Sununu asks federal government for waiver on use of rehabilitation hospitals

Update: Tuesday, March 31, 12:30 p.m. 

Governor Chris Sununu is asking the federal government for a waiver to allow non-rehabilitation patients to use New Hampshire’s rehabilitation hospitals. 

The request is targeted to the Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network, which has facilities in Portsmouth, Manchester, Nashua and Salem. 

In his letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the governor said that as emergency response scenarios to the current public health crisis have developed “it has become clear that our hospitals need additional relief from certain CMS rules and regulations in order to meet the demands of all Medicare, Medicaid and other beneficiaries seeking care.” 

The governor says that these hospitals are working with their host hospitals and strategic hospital partners in providing additional surge capacity to care for patients with acute medical needs. 

- Daniela Allee

New state data shows COVID-19 at community level

Update: Monday, March 30, 8:15 p.m.  

56 more people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing the state's total cases to 314. State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan announced the largest one-day increase in cases since the pandemic began at a press conference Monday.

"I want to stress again that, even if you live in a town where a map may not show that COVID-19 has been found to be circulating, that we would encourage people to operate under the assumption that COVID-19 is circulating in your community," Chan said.

So far, three people have died from COVID-19 in the state, all with pre-existing medical conditions. Chan said that 46 of the people diagnosed have recovered. Chan also said that approximately 5,700 tests for COVID-19 have been performed in New Hampshire to date. 

COVID-19 cases by community in New Hampshire, as of March 30, 2020.
Credit NH DHHS

For the first time Monday, state health officials provided details on the prevalence of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the town and city level (see map at left).

The state released a map with community-level ranges for confirmed cases of the coronavirus as part of its daily update on testing, hospitalizations, and other data regarding the spread of the virus.

While the map provided does not list the exact number of confirmed cases in each town, it does shed more light on the places experiencing the outbreak most acutely in New Hampshire.

While a press release accompanying the new map indicated that the state was also providing data on the age and gender breakdown of those diagnosed with COVID-19 in New Hampshire "effective immediately," a spokesperson for the state's health agency later clarified that the data is still being prepared and should be published on Tuesday.

- NHPR staff

Some state liquor stores to close

Update: Monday, March 30, 5:40 p.m.

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is temporarily closing at least eight stores and recruiting new part-time employees to deal with staffing shortages exacerbated by COVID-19.

Liquor stores in Milford, Jaffrey, Wolfeboro, Walpole, Lincoln, Hinsdale, Winchester and Swanzey will remain closed until further notice, according to the commission.

The state's liquor stores are officially deemed an "essential business" during the COVID emergency, and most locations remain open — though with reduced hours.

There has not been a confirmed case of COVID-19 linked to any of the state's liquor stores at this time. But employees at multiple locations have chosen to stay home due to concerns about their own health or of their family members.

- Casey McDermott

Sununu announces increase in unemployment benefits

Update: Monday, March 30, 4:55 p.m.

At a press conference Monday, Gov. Chris Sununu said the state would use federal stimulus dollars to increase benefits for New Hampshire residents who have lost income because of COVID-19.

"For those on the pandemic unemployment assistance, we are increasing the weekly minimum benefit from $32 per week to $168 per week, per individual, to their weekly benefit, all 100% federally funded."

Sununu says people will receive benefits for 39 weeks. He also said that right now, the state is set to receive $1.25 billion in federal aid to blunt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

- Josh Rogers

Related: Gov. Sununu tweeted out this graphic, which includes more details on the expanded benefits:

A graphic explainer of the changes in New Hampshire's unemployment benefits, which Gov. Chris Sununu said were being paid for with federal stimulus dollars.

Small businesses will get to delay filing their state taxes  

Sununu also announced a delay in the deadline for filing state business taxes, pushing it back to June 15th, the same as the new federal tax deadline.

The change, Sununu said, would affect "approximately 98 percent of New Hampshire small businesses, as many continue to adapt to these unfortunate new realities of the COVID-19 crisis.

- Jason Moon

New Hampshire students will not take standardized tests this school year

Update: Monday, March 30, 4:05 p.m.

Students in New Hampshire will not take annual statewide assessments this spring because of coronavirus-related school closures. Governor Sununu announced today (Monday, March 30) that the state has a waiver from the federal government allowing it to postpone the tests.

The state's Department of Education got pushback last week from administrators and teachers for being one of the last states to ask for this exemption.

Department of Education commissioner Frank Edelblut says he is still looking into ways to measure student performance. He says the state will help 11th graders who had planned to take the SAT this spring take it later on this year.

- Sarah Gibson

Municipal leaders ask Sununu to waive interest on property taxes

Update: Monday, March 30, 2:55 p.m.  

Local leaders in Keene, Rochester, and Durham are asking Gov. Sununu to allow cities and towns to waive interest charges on property tax bills for up to three months.

Keene City Manager Elizabeth Dragon says without an executive order from Sununu, it’s unclear whether she has the authority to waive the normal charges for late property tax payments.

"Doing it city-wide I think could be problematic," she said. "And instead of facing a potential legal challenge, it would make it a lot easier if the governor would grant us this authority."

Dragon says granting an additional three months for property tax payments would not pose a serious threat to city finances in Keene. But she acknowledges that might not be the case in every community.

- Jason Moon

State won't waive annual vehicle inspection requirement

Update: Monday, March 30, 1:45 p.m.  

The state says it will not waive the annual vehicle inspection requirement for drivers. That's despite the governor’s order that people should stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A Department of Safety spokesperson says drivers are already able to request a two-day extension or a longer term one if they are out-of-state. Automobile mechanics are considered essential workers in New Hampshire, which means they can continue working during the stay-at-home order. 

Meanwhile, Massachusetts is giving a 60-day extension to drivers who have inspections due in March or April.

- Todd Bookman

A balancing act for New Hampshire's mental health providers

Update: Monday, March 30, 1:30 p.m.  

Mental health providers in the state say they're struggling to balance client needs with protecting people's safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jay Couture is CEO of Seacoast Mental Health, and president of the state Community Behavioral Health Association. She says some services in her field *have* successfully transitioned to tele-health. But it doesn't work for everything.

"If you are receiving a medication by injection, which we have probably 150 to 170 individuals for whom that's the case, you need to have a direct interaction with a healthcare provider who can give you that injection," she says.

Couture says her colleagues are still figuring out how to work in-person at group homes and injection clinics... without access to personal protective equipment.

- The Exchange

Number of N.H. healthcare workers with COVID-19 on the rise

Update: Monday, March 30, 12:05 p.m.  

New Hampshire state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan says that confirmed cases of COVID-19 among New Hampshire's health care workers have increased since last week, but he doesn't have an exact number.

Appearing on today's (March 30) edition of NHPR's The Exchange, Chan said this increase is to be expected.

"One of the groups that we're prioritizing testing for - where we're asking facilities and providers to provide testing for - are our healthcare providers," Chan said. "So we can expect that as testing increases, we can expect an increasing health care workers that do test positive."

As of last Thursday (March 26), the total case count for New Hampshire's health care workers was 33.

Chan says health care workers are coming into contact with the virus in a number of ways, including through travel and community-transmission, and that these numbers doesn't mean they're necessarily coming into contact with the virus in health care settings.

Click here to listen to the full interview on today's episode The Exchange.

Toll collection process changes in New Hampshire

Update: Monday, March 30, 11:25 a.m.

In response to COVID-19, the state is changing the way it collects money at toll plazas.

Starting today, New Hampshire toll workers will only accept exact change in cash lanes. If a customer doesn’t have the exact toll fare, they can pay online or by phone within seven days.

The Department of Transportation says there’s been less traffic traveling through the tolls, and cash lanes no longer need to be staffed 24 hours a day. Toll attendants will only be present from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

- Mary McIntyre

Third death from COVID-19 in New Hampshire; 44 new cases bring state's total to 258

Update: Sunday, March 29, 6:40 p.m.

A Rockingham County woman is the third person to die of coronavirus in New Hampshire. In a release issued Sunday, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said the woman was over 60 years old and had underlying health issues before contracting COVID-19. 

In what is by far the largest jump in case numbers so far, state health officials also announced 44 new positive test results for COVID-19 in the state.

The new cases are all adults, 25 women and 19 men. Five of the new patients were hospitalized for the illness. According to health officials, 15 percent of the positive cases identified in New Hampshire have required hospitalization so far.

The regional breakdown of the new cases spans the state, with 14 in Rockingham County, five in Strafford County, four in Merrimack County, two in Carroll County, two in Grafton County, one each in Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, and 15 in Hillsborough County. Of the Hillsborough County cases, seven are in Nashua and seven are in Manchester.

- NHPR Staff

Note: We will continue to update this developing story.

Manchester mayor's daughter tests positive for COVID-19

Update: Sunday, March 29, 6:20 p.m.

One of the daughters of Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig has tested positive for COVID-19.

In an email Sunday afternoon, Craig said her daughter learned last week that a friend from a recent study abroad program had tested positive. Craig said, given her interaction with the public, she and her daughter were tested for the illness. Craig said her test came back negative.

Craig said her entire household remains in self-quarantine and that none of her family members are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

A spokeswoman for Craig said the mayor has been working from home since the beginning of last week and will continue to do so, including delivering her budget address Monday from home and calling into this week’s aldermen meeting.

-NHPR staff

Hikers flock to popular N.H. spots

Update: Sunday, March 29, 4:15 p.m. 

The first weekend of Gov. Chris Sununu’s stay-at-home order saw a surge of hikers heading to popular trails in New Hampshire.

Some officials and conservation groups say that crowded trails could become a problem. Click here for more on this story.

Relief funds set up at UNH and Dartmouth

Update: Sunday, March 29, 1:20 p.m.

Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire have each set up emergency relief funds for their students affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dartmouth says the fund will provide support to undergraduates of "limited financial means" who are dealing with unexpected pandemic-related expenses not covered by the college's financial aid packages.

Dartmouth also says it hopes to raise half a million dollars for critical needs and says hundreds of students have sought financial help.

- Daniela Allee

27 more cases bring state's total to 214

Update: Saturday, March 28, 9:00 p.m.

State health officials announced 27 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire Saturday evening. That brings the state’s total number of known cases to 214.

The new cases are 17 adult females, 9 adult males, and one male younger than 18.

The majority of the cases were in Rockingham (11 cases) and Hillsborough (10 cases) counties, including three cases each in Manchester and Nashua. The remainder were in Merrimack (3), Grafton (2), and Strafford (1) counties.

Three of the new cases were hospitalized for their illness. To date, 33 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 in New Hampshire, and two people have died.

-NHPR staff

Shaw's workers test positive

Update: Saturday, March 28, 4:47 p.m.

Employees at Shaw's grocery stores in Dover, Littleton, and Woodsville have tested positive for COVID-19. The company declined to say how many employees tested positive for the disease. 

In an email, a Shaw's spokesperson said additional cleaning and disinfecting has been done at those stores, in addition to regular daily cleaning and disinfecting.

Shaw's says that employees must follow CDC guidelines for frequent hand washing and are asked to stay home if they're not feeling well.

Two Massachusetts Shaw's have also had employees test positive for coronavirus.

- Daniela Allee

Governor asks extended visitors to self-quarantine

Update: Saturday, March 28, 4:10 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu on Saturday issued a request for out-of-state visitors who arrive for non-work reasons and stay for an extended period to voluntarily self-quarantine. Governors around the country, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, have issued similar requests with the goal of limiting the spread of coronavirus.

The rest of Sununu's statement Saturday:

"This applies to individuals who come to New Hampshire for an extended stay at a hotel, vacation home, other vacation or home rental, or an extended stay with family or friends. This does not apply to individuals making same-day trips to New Hampshire for work, to purchase essential goods or services, or to check in on a close family member or friend."

- Dan Tuohy

N.H. courts limit access to buildings through May 4

Update: Saturday, March 28, 3:10 p.m.

The state's courts are limiting access to buildings through May 4, the same date for the end of Governor Sununu's stay-at-home order.

People will be allowed inside for a limited number of reasons, such as seeking emergency relief or participating in a scheduled hearing.

People who need to file documents can do so in areas at the entrance to each courthouse. Each person entering a courthouse will be screened by security for potential exposure to COVID-19.

-Daniela Allee

Hopkinton school employee tests positive for COVID-19

Update, Saturday, March 28, 12:01 p.m.

An employee at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton has tested positive for COVID-19. 

The school district says the staff member's test does not coincide with any day students were at the school.

The individual was not involved in handing out school materials to families for remote learning.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that the school's faculty and staff self-monitor, by checking their temperatures and remaining alert for coughing or difficulty breathing.

- Daniela Allee

Additional guidance for N.H. retailers, realtors

  Update, Saturday, March 28, 9:30 a.m.

The state is offering additional guidance to retailers and real estate professionals amid New Hampshire's stay-at-home order, which is now in effect.

Retailers' facilities must be closed to the public, but retailers who are not otherwise deemed essential may choose to conduct business via curbside pick up or delivery for orders taken online, by phone, or by other remote means. On-site cash transactions are not permitted.

Under the updated order and directive from Gov. Chris Sununu, meetings for real estate transactions cannot occur at physical offices, but may take place with social distancing or remotely by phone, video, or other electronic means. Home showings may take place by appointment, and with social distancing. Real estate closings can continue, either by remote means or with the recommended social distancing.

Open houses are not permitted.

The list of essential businesses and employees is a living document, and it will continue to be updated, Sununu has noted.

- Dan Tuohy

Earlier updates