Coronavirus Update: Gov. Sununu Issues Emergency Stay-At-Home Order In N.H.

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Sununu issues stay-at-home order effective through May 4th

Update: Thursday, March 26, 4:14 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu has issued an emergency stay-at-home order in effect from 11:59 p.m. tomorrow night (Friday, March 27) through May 4th in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Sununu announced the order at a press conference Thursday afternoon (March 26). The order also includes an extension of distance learning at the state's public schools until May 4th, nearly a month longer than planned.

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Sununu says this is not a "shelter-in-place" order, and that the order won't prohibit necessary travel, such as to purchase food and supplies. 

Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, will remain open.

Related: What does New Hampshire's stay-at-home order mean?

Sununu said this was not a decision he made lightly. 

"We're only a couple weeks into this," he said. "This could last a long time, it really could."

The governor also announced the closure of state beaches. Seacoast beaches and state parks have attracted large groups in recent days, prompting concerns about social distancing. Inland state parks will remain open at this time, though some areas, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, have closed in an effort to limit crowds.

During the stay-at-home order, Sununu says people should still feel free to go out and exercise, as long as they practice social distancing.

- NHPR Staff

Note: We will continue to update this breaking story.

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N.H. Attorney General warns of COVID-19 scams

Update: Thursday, March 26, 11:25 a.m. 

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office says people should be on alert for scammers trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The AG's office says scammers may try and sell fake treatment or prevention products that they say will ward off the virus, or they may try and establish fake charities.

The state is advising residents to do their homework before donating to any charitable causes.

There are currently no prescription or over the counter treatments that can cure COVID-19. Residents who think they may have been contacted by a scammer should reach out to the AG's office.

- Annie Ropeik

Teachers ask Sununu for help postponing statewide tests

Update: Thursday, March 26, 11:15 a.m.

Groups representing public school administrators and teachers are calling for the state to postpone student assessments this spring, in light of emergency school closures.

U.S. Department of Education told states they could apply for a waiver to defer tests required by federal law until the end of the national emergency. The DOE is streamlining the application process for states applying for the waiver; nearly all have applied, with the exception of New Hampshire.

Click here to read more on this story

29 new positive test results for COVID-19

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 5:45 pm

The number of known COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire has reached 137. State officials announced 29 new positive test results today.

The jump in cases is in part a reflection of additional testing capacity, as private companies, including LabCorp and Quest, are now testing in the state.

Nineteen people have required hospitalization, including six of the new cases. To date, there has been a single death attributed to COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

- NHPR Staff

Concord Coach suspends all services

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 5:15 p.m.

Concord and Dartmouth Coach Lines will suspend all bus service beginning Saturday, the company announced Wednesday.

“We do carry essential travelers, so this decision was not made lightly,” Concord Coach Lines Vice President Benjamin Blunt said in a statement. “We feel like we can and should support guidance that people should stay home and are concerned with the continued exposure of our employees and riders. We look forward to the day when we can resume our operations and support the travels of all our riders, but now is a time to stay home.”  

This week, state health officials announced that a passenger who rode in a Concord Coach bus four times between March 11 and March 16 tested positive for the coronavirus. The company says it immediately pulled the bus drivers from those routes from service, and that they are at home in self-isolation.

The state’s other major bus carrier, C & J, suspended its service last weekend.

Amtrak's Downeaster, which makes three stops in New Hampshire, is running on a reduced schedule. 

 

-Todd Bookman

 

As Maine beaches close, New Hampshire's Seacoast remains open to visitors

  Update: Wednesday, March 25, 5:10 p.m.

Four towns in Maine are closing their beaches due to coronavirus concerns – but so far, New Hampshire's beaches remain open.

 

The southern Maine towns of Kittery, York, Ogunquit and Wells will shut their public beaches to keep people from congregating.

 

In New Hampshire, state beaches remain open – but only to groups of fewer than five people. Some parking lots are also closed to limit crowds.

 

Visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing and remain six feet apart from people they didn't arrive with to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

 

Still, New Hampshire's beaches have been crowded in nice weather on recent days.

 

Earlier this week, selectmen in Rye voted against a recommendation, from their emergency manager, to close their town beaches.

 

The emergency manager's letter also urged the state to close its oceanfront parks to prevent people from flouting public health advice. 

-Annie Ropeik 

 

First round of state unemployment checks head out

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 4:50 p.m.  

More than 41,000 residents registered to receive unemployment benefits in the past week, a staggering figure ten times the levels seen during the height of the Great Recession.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Sununu issued an executive order clearing the way for most workers, including the self-employed, who see a reduction in earnings due to the coronavirus to qualify for benefits.

The first round of payments went out yesterday, a day ahead of schedule.

“The importance right now is that all these people that have filed claims get the money that they are entitled to within the time frame that we are supposed to give it to them,” N.H. Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis told the Executive Council today.

Copadis told the council that during the peak of the financial crisis in January 2011, the state received approximately 4,000 applications for unemployment assistance each week. He declined to forecast what the state’s unemployment rate could reach as impacts of the coronavirus ripple their way through restaurants, retail and other sectors of the state economy.

Under last week’s executive order, the state is waiving a number of regulations, including the requirement that those collecting benefits actively look for work. 

The state caps benefits at $427 per week. 

The state’s unemployment trust fund stood at approximately $300 million before the virus emerged in New Hampshire, a level considered healthy compared to other states.

-Todd Bookman

  

State faces ventilator shortage

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2:25 p.m.  

As the spread of COVID-19 intensifies in New Hampshire and across the country, medical supplies like ventilators are in high demand.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told the Executive Council Wednesday morning that under normal circumstances, the state would rely on the Strategic National Stockpile for critical medical supplies. But since COVID is affecting so many states, that isn't an option right now.

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"Tapping into the Strategic National Stockpile for everything we need has been challenging and we have not been able to get ventilators from them, so we have ordered some on the commercial market," Shibinette said.

Shibinette said New Hampshire has about 1,000 ventilators or machines that could be converted to ventilators. State officials are also combing through warehouses for old equipment that could be refurbished and are working with private manufacturers to fill in the gaps.

- Casey McDermott

N.H. joins other states in anti-price gouging effort

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2:30 p.m.  

New Hampshire is joining 32 other states in asking online retailers - including Amazon and eBay - to crack down on price gouging.

The states are asking the companies to implement clear policies prohibiting a spike in prices by third-party sellers. Items like hand sanitizer have been offered at exorbitant prices by some vendors.

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Unlike the majority of states, New Hampshire doesn’t have its own law against price gouging.

Many economists oppose those laws, arguing that price controls contribute to hoarding and a mismatch between supply and demand.

- Todd Bookman

Sununu explores state tax filing extension, liquor store curbside pickup

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2:00 p.m.

New Hampshire is exploring options for extending state tax filing deadlines to alleviate financial pressure on residents due to COVID-19.

Democratic Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli asked Governor Chris Sununu about the possibility of such an extension during Wednesday’s council meeting, pointing to a recent move by the IRS to extend the federal tax deadline from April to July.

The governor said he was already on it.

"I’ll be meeting with [Department of Revenue Administration] Commissioner Lindsey Stepp, some folks from the attorney general’s office and our office to see what flexibility we can and should provide," Sununu said. "It’s a great question. I think we’ll be able to do something on that front."

Sununu also said he is exploring options for curbside pickup for customers at New Hampshire's state-run liquor stores, which are a significant revenue generator for the state. More on that story here.

- Casey McDermott

Nashua suspends bus service

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 10:15 a.m.

The city of Nashua is suspending its regular bus service to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The city will continue to operate an on-call van service for people with essential jobs or those who need access to essential services – like grocery stores, pharmacies, or medical appointments.

People who are interested in using the service will need to call the city to make an appointment for pick-up. The fare for the service is one $1.25 each way.

N.H. non-profits already experiencing financial hardship

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 10:10 a.m.  

A survey conducted by the New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits found that 85 percent of the state’s non-profit organizations are already experiencing or expecting to experience financial hardships related to COVID-19.

Jennifer Pierson, Executive Director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, has already had to cancel two fundraising events and may have to cancel a third.

“It’s difficult. We’re a non-profit. We live off of fundraising. And having to cancel all of these events makes a big difference on our bottom line,” Pierson said.

The New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits survey also found that half are seeing an increase in staff and volunteer absences as a result of COVID-19, which impacts their ability to provide services.

- Alex McOwen

7 new coronavirus cases; Concord Coach bus riders may have been exposed

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 7:13 p.m.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced seven new positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire Tuesday night (March 24), bringing the state's total to 108.

The new cases are all adults - six males and one female. Three of the cases have no identified risk factors, indicating community transmission.

One of the patients among the new cases is hospitalized, while the remaining six are isolated at home. So far, 13  patients out of the state's 108 positive cases have been hospitalized.

DHHS also issued guidance regarding potential community transmission on Concord Coach Lines buses after it was determined a person with COVID-19 was a rider on the bus. Riders on the following buses should stay at home and monitor their health for fever or respiratory illness - and if symptoms develop, should contact their healthcare provider:

  • 3/11/20: 3:15 AM bus from Concord, NH – Boston Express Londonderry – South Station – Boston Logan Airport
  • 3/13/20: 5:40 PM bus from Boston Logan Airport – South Station – Concord, NH – Tilton – Plymouth – Lincoln – Littleton
  • 3/14/20: 5:00 AM bus from Concord, NH – Boston Express Londonderry – Boston Express Salem – South Station – Boston Logan Airport
  • 3/16/20: 1:40 PM bus from Boston Logan Airport – South Station – Concord, NH

- NHPR Staff

Sununu: No need for shelter-in-place at this time

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 4:45 p.m.

Governor Sununu says a mandatory shelter-in-place order is not necessary at this time in New Hampshire because many people are already limiting their travel. But he said today he may have to take stronger action as the coronavirus spreads.

With increased testing capabilities, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is expected to increase significantly. Sununu says the peak may still be months away.

"We don't know when it's really going to hit its peak so until then we will have to be very, very vigilant about our personal responsibility, with our businesses and who we interact with and take the concept of social isolation very seriously," he said.

He opened the news conference today by bringing up the topic. The governor's office has heard from a few towns and cities, including the mayors of Manchester and Nashua, who request either a shelter-in-place order or stay-at-home advisory.

- Sarah Gibson

Local news outlet lays off staff

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 4:40 p.m.  

The local New Hampshire newspaper The Valley News will lay off some staff and scale back production due to virus-related economic impacts. The newspaper covers parts of western New Hampshire.

Publisher Dan McClory says in a statement that the toll of the pandemic is forcing them to reduce hours and let some staff go. He says they hope to reverse some of the changes once life returns "to some sense of normalcy."

For now, readers can expect to see fewer pages in print and less of some content online.

The Valley News is part of a family of local papers that includes the Concord Monitor.

- Annie Ropeik

N.H. calls out for doctors, nurses to volunteer

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 2:59 p.m.

In preparation for a surge in COVID-19 patients in the weeks ahead, New Hampshire has launched an online registration for volunteer health care professionals.

The portal, NHresponds.org, is for medical and non-medical volunteers. "This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our state," said Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

It's part of a federal effort to bolster medical support for a projected surge in patients. A surge in patients is likely in the days ahead, as New Hampshire triples the number of tests for coronavirus, said Gov. Chris Sununu.

In a news conference in Concord, Sununu also urged people to visit VolunteerNH.org. And the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs has a new web page for companies who have or can produce supplies that are high demand, like face masks, gloves, medical gowns. 

Sununu began the conference by saying that New Hampshire does not have a stay-at-home advisory, or a "shelter in place" order. He reiterated that residents should continue to use safe social distancing - staying 6 feet away from others - to try to limit spread of COVID-19. 

(This blog will be updated with additional information from the conference)

Rescue teams urge hikers to use extra caution

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 1:17 p.m.

New Hampshire's search-and-rescue teams are urging people heading to the woods to use extra caution to avoid putting first responders at risk for COVID-19.

"A message we would like to send is that we understand getting outside is important for people's physical and mental well-being in this trying time," says Major David Walsh of N.H. Fish and Game. "However, it is imperative that people enjoying the outdoors do so with a high degree of caution. Putting themselves at risk also means causing a multitude of first responders to abandon social distancing and puts them at risk as well."

Search teams were called into action Sunday to rescue an injured hiker from Mount Washington, with the help of Twin Mountain Fire & EMS, and the Cog Railway.

Meanwhile, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to stay off the popular AT, the trail from Georgia to Maine, to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Some legendary parts of the trail stretch through New Hampshire.

Sandy Marra, CEO of theVirginia-based conservancy, says the trail has been inundated with hikers as people seek ways to exercise alone or in small groups. 

"I mean, people were parking on people's lawns because parking lots were full," she says. "Trailheads, shelter sites, so the whole concept of social distancing went out the window as people walked outdoors."

- Todd Bookman

Sununu bans gatherings of 10 or more

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 12:30 p.m. 

In his latest executive order, Governor Sununu is prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The ban is for scheduled gatherings for "social, spiritual, and recreational activities, including but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities."

Court proceedings, organizations, state government and urgent medical events are exempt from the order, which is in effect until April 6.

The ban on gatherings of 10 or more follows the latest CDC guidelines.

- Sarah Gibson 

Police try to limit face-to-face contact

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 10 a.m.

Police departments across New Hampshire are trying to limit the amount of face-to-face contact between officers and the public to help prevent spread of coronavirus. Some departments, including Portsmouth, have closed their station lobbies to the public.

The Manchester Police Department's lobby is still open, but only to people with emergency situations. Spokeswoman Heather Hamel says officers will handle non-emergency situations by phone. She says the number of police officers on the street is the same, and investigations of crimes continue uninterrupted.

- Rick Ganley, Mary McIntyre

Murray urges public to report suspected fraud

Update: Tuesday, March 24, 10 a.m.  

The U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire is warning Granite Staters to on the watch for online scams. Scott W. Murray says scammers are trying to cash in on the coronavirus pandemic by preying on public fears.

Scams include counterfeit products and fake cures, as well as malicious websites or apps that appear to share information, or phishing emails that appear to be from legitimate organizations, like the CDC.

Granite Staters can report cases of fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at (866) 720-5721.

DHMC develops its own test for COVID-19

Update:  Monday, March 23, 4:25 p.m.

Credit DHMC

Dartmouth-Hitchcock says it's now able to do its own coronavirus tests without relying on the state public health lab or commercial labs in other states.

Dr. Edward Merrens with Dartmouth-Hitchcock says in theory they could run as many as 1000 tests a day. But because of shortages in testing swabs and protective equipment for healthcare workers, only Dartmouth-Hitchcock patients who are hospitalized and health care workers who have direct contact with patients will be tested.

"The biggest limiting factor is the swabs and the protective equipment," Merrens says.

Merrens says the new testing capacity should relieve some of the burden on the state's public health lab.

- Jason Moon

First coronavirus death in N.H.

Update: Monday, March 23, 4:15 p.m.

New Hampshire has seen its first death from coronavirus. The announcement came from state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan at a press conference Monday (March 23).

The male patient was over the age of 60 and a resident of Hillsborough County, Chan said, adding the patient had several underlying medical conditions.

Chan also announced that there are 23 new cases of coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing the state's total to 101.

Earlier today, the mayors of Manchester and Nashua asked Governor Sununu to issue a shelter in place order to slow the spread of the virus. Mayors Joyce Craig and Jim Donchess are the latest to join a growing number of public officials asking Sununu to issue such an order.

At the press conference, Sununu said New Hampshire residents must practice social distancing and "be accountable to each other," and did not announce such an order.

Read full story here.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu announces plan to increase available hospital beds

Governor Chris Sununu announced today that the state is working with healthcare providers to set up more temporary hospital bed space.

The eight sites across the state would be used in the event that a surge of coronavirus patients overwhelms existing hospital bed capacity.

Sununu says the first site to be ready will be in Manchester at Southern New Hampshire University. Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital will handle clinical care at that location.

- Jason Moon

First day of remote learning for most families

Update: Monday, March 23, 4:15 p.m.

Many families across New Hampshire are wrapping up their first day of remote learning during the state's virus-related school closures.

Districts spent much of last week getting paper packets and devices to students so they could begin classes today. Many teachers and staff said things are off to a hopeful start but there's still a lot in flux.

School staff are looking for ways to keep tabs on students who are struggling, both with remote learning and emotionally.

Many teachers are making one-on-one calls to stay connected with students. Guidance counselors across the state say they're also figuring out how to do wellness checks and provide support remotely.

- Sarah Gibson

WIC conducting appointments only by phone

Update: Monday, March 23, 1 p.m.

New Hampshire Health and Human Services announced today that, in light of CDC recommendations around social distancing, the state's Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program will conduct all appointments by phone until further notice.

The WIC program provides nutrition, education, and support to the state's pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and preschool-aged children. DHHS says WIC offices are working to ensure clients continue to get the services they need with minimal disruption, and that all appointment types, including certifications, can be completed by phone. The WIC phone appointments web page  has more information. Its phone number: 1-800-942-4321

State senator, state house staffers self-quarantine after Fuller Clark's husband tests positive for coronavirus

Update: Monday, March 23, 11:55 a.m.

Credit NHPR Staff

The positive COVID-19 test of the husband of a Portsmouth state senator Martha Fuller Clark is prompting one other state senator and several state house staffers to self-quarantine.

Terry Pfaff, the chief operating officer of the state legislature, says the steps are prudent under the circumstances.

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“We currently have two senators who are self-quarantining, the senator herself, Martha Fuller Clark, and also Senator Sherman," he said.

"We also have several of our senate staff who are self-quarantining, out of an abundance of caution and monitoring their heath.”

Senator Tom Sherman of Rye rode in a car with Fuller Clark in the days before her husband’s positive test. The quarantined Senate staffers were in close proximity with Fuller Clark during that same period.

The state house is closed to visitors and legislative leaders have suspended operations through April 10.

- Josh Rogers

Gov. Charlie Baker issues stay-at-home advisory order in Massachusetts

 Update: Monday, March 23, 11:30 a.m. 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has just announced state health officials will issue a stay-at-home advisory to all residents of the state.

Baker is also ordering the closure of non-essential businesses, starting at noon tomorrow (March 24). Both the advisory and order will expire on April 7th.

Baker said the stay-at-home advisory is not a mandated shelter-in-place order; noting he did not believe that he can or should order citizens to be confined to their homes. He urged residents to stay home and avoid unnecessary activities.

On Sunday, Mass. health officials reported three new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state's total to five.

Click here for more on this story from WBUR.

DHHS announces 13 new positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing state's total to 78

Update: Sunday, March 22, 5:20 p.m.

The current situation in New Hampshire by county
Credit New Hampshire DHHS

State health officials announced an additional 13 cases of the coronavirus on Sunday (March 22), bringing the total number of New Hampshire cases to 78. Of the new cases of COVID-19, are all adults, including nine males and four females.

Sullivan County now has its first confirmed case, while DHHS says a case previously identified in Coos County was in fact a resident of Grafton County, meaning Coos is the only county in the state yet to see a confirmed case.

Rockingham County has been the most affected, with 28 cases now confirmed.

Six of the new cases have required hospitalization, with at least one of those patients now discharged.

On Friday (March 20), DHHS issued guidance that those with mild symptoms will not be given tests and should instead stay home, a result of a lack of testing supplies and protective equipment for health care workers.

Nearly 900 tests remain pending, according to DHHS.

- Todd Bookman

Manchester VA Limits On-Site Patient Traffic

Update: Sunday, March 22 at 5:15 p.m.

The Manchester VA Medical Center
Credit Peter Biello / NHPR

The Manchester VA Medical Center is intesifying its reponse to the coronavirus.

In an update posted on the VA's website, veterans are advised they will be screened in their vehicles as they arrive on campus.

Visitors at VA outpatient clinics in Conway, Somersworth, and Tilton will be screened at the entrances to those facilities.

The VA is urging patients who are ill to call before going to the center. The phone number is is 800-892-8384 ext. 3199.

Click here for more information.

Court changes procedures, delays trials in response to coronavirus

Update: Sunday, March 22, 2:50 p.m. 

The federal courthouse in Concord is again altering its procedures in light of the pandemic. In a new set of orders issued by Chief Judge Landya McCafferty, the Rudman Courthouse will only be open for in-court hearings on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the time being.

Criminal defendants making their initial appearance, facing arraignment or scheduled for bail hearings will now appear via videoconference, with their consent.

Members of the public and the media who wish to attend a hearing in-person will use an overflow room, with capacity limited to no more than 10 people. All civil hearings will be done by teleconference, and all jury trials are being delayed until at least May 1st.

“The court wants to assure the public that it is committed to fulfilling its mission of providing justice efficiently and effectively throughout this public health emergency,” wrote McCafferty. “The judges of this court are committed to preserving the constitutional and legal rights of the public as we respond to these unprecedented challenges.

- Todd Bookman

Coronavirus Cases Rise to 65 in N.H.

Update, Saturday, March 21, 6:28 p.m.

New Hampshire officials have announced 10 additional cases of coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 65 confirmed cases.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports that three of the confirmed cases in the state have required hospitalization; one of the new cases is hospitalized. All of the 10 new people identified are adults. Four of the cases have no identified risk factors, indicating additional community-based transmission of COVID-19, according to DHHS.

The state is reducing the number of tests it is performing, citing a shortage of protective gear for health care workers. People with mild symptoms are asked to stay home.

On Saturday, Governor Chris Sununu issued a new executive order that requires grocery store customers to use new plastic or paper bags. Reusable tote bags, he says, pose a risk to store employees.

- Todd Bookman 

State senator's husband tests positive

Update, Saturday, March 21, 2:11 p.m.  

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth says her husband has tested positive for COVID-19. In a press release issued from the New Hampshire Senate, the senator says she has not experienced symptoms. She and her husband have been in isolation since Tuesday.

To the extent members of the public were in close contact with Fuller Clark between March 7 and March 15, the Senate says they should follow state guidelines for self quarantine and self-observation

"While my husband is feeling under the weather, his symptoms are not critical and we have been in self-isolation since Tuesday," she said in a statement. "After my husband received the positive test result today, we felt it was our responsibility to inform the public so that others may take the necessary precautions to self-observe and self-quarantine as necessary."

- Dan Tuohy

Update: Saturday, March 21, 12:45 p.m.

The White House coronavirus task force is holding a briefing at 12:45 p.m. Listen live on NHPR and streaming on NHPR.org

C & J suspending service Sunday

Update, Saturday, March 21, 11 a.m

C & J is suspending all bus service, beginning Sunday.

The company was running a reduced schedule to points in Boston and New York City, but with ridership plummeting, C & J says it is now cancelling all trips indefinitely.

Concord Coach is continuing to run on a limited schedule to Boston and Logan Airport.

Amtrak's Downeaster is also operating with fewer daily trains.

- Todd Bookman

Earlier updates

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